Home Columns Opinion OPINION: Say “No” to Electronic Voting at Hunger Mountain Coop

OPINION: Say “No” to Electronic Voting at Hunger Mountain Coop


by Steven Farnham

Members of the Hunger Mountain Co-operative have received the warning for the Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014, annual meeting containing the council’s proposed change to the bylaws, which if approved, will enable members to vote changes to the bylaws electronically.

With all due respect, in the enthusiastic promotion of what we’re purported to gain with the proposed bylaw change, no one has explained what we will lose.

The advocates of electronic balloting argue that if enough members show up for a meeting, then there is no facility large enough to house them. True, but it will never happen. Besides, what better way to demonstrate the importance of an issue than a standing-room-only crowd?

The advocates of electronic balloting claim that a few individuals cannot attend the annual meeting, and for many others, it is devilishly inconvenient, and since these advocates hold sacrosanct every individual’s right to vote, they claim the current system is inadequate. Conversely, the vote-only-at-meeting advocates hold that, because at meetings discussion is required preceding the vote, that said discussion helps guide the voters to the wisest choice, and… because that choice affects the whole group, the importance of the discussion trumps the importance of any one individual’s right to vote, i.e. would you like to ride a bus in which the driver, who can see the road, is in control, or would you prefer to ride in a bus in which all riders can steer, but few or none can see?

Moreover, given the same information, a random sample of a population will vote the same as the full population, rendering moot full participation—sacrosanct, or not. While the (self-selected) group attending the meeting may not represent a “purely” random sample, evidence suggests that it’s random enough.

Voting at meetings levels the playing field, helping to prevent the majority from running roughshod over a small, vulnerable minority, simply by giving that minority a platform from which to easily access the ears and hearts of all qualified voters. Imagine the enormity of the task facing a minority if they need to reach 7,000 people strewn throughout Washington County, and the greater Hunger Mountain Co-op community, hoping to persuade at least 3,500 of them to vote one way or the other. Good luck with that!

I pledge, if elected to the council, to strive to improve the openness of communication between the membership and the council, and management. I believe that improved communication will lead to a higher level of understanding and satisfaction. However, I do not believe that inserting a voting booth in every member’s electronic device of choice will enhance that conversation. If the whole point is to make deciding easy, who will bother with a difficult conversation first?

Please consider carefully. Want easy democracy? Vote: Approve. For, fair, well-deliberated democracy vote: Against. Thank you.

Editor’s Note:  Writer Steven Farnham is running for a seat on the Hunger Mountain Co-op Council.