Region 9 Aligned Elections Initiative
by Rune Storesund, Dr.Eng., P.E., G.E.,
San Francisco Section Region 9 Governor
ASCE Region 9 (California), which consists of the Los Angeles Section, the Sacramento Section, the San Diego Section, and the San Francisco Section and has over 17,000 ASCE members, is coordinating to align Section and Branch elections with the Society election and voting, which occurs in May each year.
The purpose of this initiative is to enhance the individual ASCE member experience by streamlining the current ‘voting’ season, which spans May to end of September, into one consolidated period of time for both Society-wide as well as local branches/groups. ASCE members would have one voting period for both Society and local election matters.
Informal polling during San Francisco Section’s “Get Out and Vote” campaign in May 2020 found overwhelming support from members to consolidate the disparate array of voting seasons into one. Informal polling of the local branches/groups within the San Francisco Section also found great support, with the caveat that some organizational/procedural changes would be required to restructure current calendars to achieve the consolidated ASCE ‘voting’ season. The polling also found that members were far more likely to vote for items of local interest rather than at the Society level. Thus, engaging members for local elections is anticipated to increase member participation at both the local and Society levels.
The benefits for this coordination include the following:
- Consolidate the ‘voting season’ to just one month (May).
Currently, different Sections and Branches have elections and associated voting anytime between May and October. This can make it confusing and cumbersome for ASCE members to track what vote takes place when and for which group. Consolidating the ‘voting season’ into one month that includes all the various ASCE entities (Society, Sections, Branches, etc.) will eliminate this confusion and simplify individual member’s need to track different voting periods.
- Streamline leadership recruitment for Section and Branches
Many Sections and Branches struggle to find volunteers to fill leadership positions on their boards and committees. There are many reasons for this, but a primary factor is the lack of messaging to the larger membership of openings and opportunities to become engaged. By coordinating the elections across all Sections and Branches/Groups in Region 9, all Region 9 ASCE members would know that local elections occur in May and would have the opportunity to search for any open positions in advance of the May voting regardless of the Section, Branch, Group, etc. We all have busy lives and tracking the specific timing of one group to engage can be challenging, especially for volunteer positions.
An added benefit of a coordinated elections period for the leadership of ASCE Sections and Branches/Groups is having a similar timeline for nominations, ballot preparation, and conducting the elections. This generates an automatic ‘support system’, where groups with less experienced leadership can leverage the experience and knowledge of more experienced leaders in different groups because the events are happening at the same time. This is a win-win!
- Increase overall voter turn-out
Ultimately, the goal with this initiative is to increase overall member engagement. A concerted effort was made in May of 2020 to promote voter turnout at the local level through a “Get Out The Vote” campaign at the local level within San Francisco Section. Due to the size of Region 9 in relation to the overall Society membership, this local encouragement had a measurable effect on voter turnout at the local level and the Region 9 groups (with more than 1,000 members) performed much better than the average voter turnout for others as well as within Society overall, which has a voter turnout typically less than 10% (about 8%).
Table 1: 2020 Society Voting Participation (Groups with more than 1,000 members)
|Section & Branch Name
|San Francisco Section-Golden Gate Branch
|San Diego Section
|Los Angeles Section-Metro Branch
|Los Angeles Section-Orange County Branch
|National Capital Section
|Texas Section-Houston Branch
|Boston Society of CE Section
|NY Metropolitan Section
|Colorado Section-Denver Branch
|Texas Section-Dallas Branch
|New Jersey Section-North Jersey Branch
|New Jersey Section-Central Jersey Branch
Regardless, all of these voter turnout numbers are far below what we should be striving for. Voting is one important aspect of membership where individuals have the ability to ‘have their voice heard.’ We should be self-examining our processes and procedures to ensure we’re making voting as accessible as possible to engage members. This coordinated election season initiative aims to do just that.
We have the opportunity to get close to 100% voter participation. Our current participation is on the order of 10%. By coordinating elections at the Society and local levels, the working hypothesis is the local ‘energy’ will get more members ‘to the polls’. We would target a 10% increase in voter turnout per year, with an aim of recurring voter turnout in excess of 70%.
Most of the work to accomplish this coordination will occur within the ASCE Sections and Branches/Groups. The first order of business is to update the existing Bylaws to ensure that the voting periods are updated and compatible with the coordinated elections season. Once the Bylaws are updated, the Section Bylaws must be submitted to the Governing Documents Committee at the Society level, which typically takes 3-6 months. Region 9 is working with the Governing Documents Committee to review Bylaw updates from all four Sections within Region 9 this fall, thus allowing all groups to be able to coordinate their elections season for 2022.
Branch Bylaws need not be submitted to Society, but typically require review and approval at the Section level.
What to Look For?
As an ASCE member in Region 9, be on the lookout this winter for solicitations for leadership and/or committee opportunities. Since all Sections, Branches, and local groups will have a coordinated elections schedule, the solicitation and nominating process will be similar. Check with your local Section for open positions and apply so you can be included on the ballot in May.
A typical timeline might look something like this:
- January & February –Sections/Branches/Groups identifying candidates for upcoming elections;
- March & April – Sections/Branches/Groups in establish ballots;
- May – Society and Local Elections
If you’re not interested in a leadership position, be on the lookout for the May elections season. Region 9 will provide coordinated balloting for all members within Region 9. Upon completing the local ballot, you will be automatically forwarded on to the Society ballot where you can participate and vote for those elements you feel comfortable voting on. In many cases, there is just one candidate and those candidates would greatly appreciate your vote. These candidates represent the individual member, so at the very least, the voting membership has some awareness of who these candidates are and what they do.
Please contact Rune Storesund, San Francisco Section Region 9 Governor (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions or comments.
California Legislative Visit Week Event
by John Kilps, Chair, ASCE Region 9, Government Relations Committee
The 2021 California Legislative Visit Week event was held May 10-13, 2020. For the first time, ASCE Region 9 joined a group of California engineering societies and associations to host the event together virtually:
American Public Works Association (APWA) – Region VIII
Structural Engineers Association of California (SEAOC)
California Geotechnical Engineering Association (CALGEO)
American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) – California (Lead Host)
The group holds a shared objective to meet with state legislators and advocate for infrastructure and other industry issues. Representatives of the organizations formed the event committee, and identified state legislative bills being tracked. Talking points for the meetings were developed, and reports and documents to provide for legislators were gathered. The ASCE Report Card for America’s Infrastructure was a key report provided.
The event program featured three dynamic keynote speakers who presented on exciting and timely topics:
David S. Kim, Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency
Nancy Vogel, Director of the Governor’s Water Portfolio Program at the California Natural Resources Agency
Dave Amos, PhD, Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and of the City Beautiful YouTube Channel
California engineers and public works professionals gathered for the event to meet with state legislators. The meetings provided opportunity to inform legislators of awards and scholarship programs offered by the organizations. In one meeting, Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (CA-60) said she would help promote scholarship programs at her alma mater, UC Riverside. A total of 111 meetings were held with state legislators or their staff, out of a total 120 possible. That is a significant impact!
Looking ahead to next year, plans are to again hold the event jointly with the other organizations, with a possibility of more organizations joining the effort. And next year the event will be held in-person in Sacramento. Contact me via email@example.com to get more information about participating next year.