A Proposal For Electoral Reform

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The official AME website contains an excellent overview for all of the election results and legislation passed at the 2004 Gen Con. I strongly recommend that everyone on this MB migrate to www.ame-church.com and read the information that the AME CIO has posted for our individual and collective edification. I am convinced that our Zion is in need of electoral reform.

It is widely reported that the AME Church consists of 2.5-3 million members. Yet of this total roughly 2,000 delegates were empowered with voting privileges at the 47th Quadrennial. In the absence of an audited census of our purported membership, I believe the true total of AME membership is closer to 2 million members. If my number is closer to the real population that means that one-tenth of one percent of all AME members decide the fate of our Zion and of that number upwards to 25% chose not to cast ballots at one time or another. One-tenth of one percent of the membership determining election outcomes or deciding on what legislation should be passed represents an oligarchy not a democracy. It is not representative of the general population.

We need more not fewer Lay members voting at Gen Con. The delegates who are sent to Gen Con may or may not represent my or your best interests. For example, while I support the legislation, which passed that barred AME clergy from participating in same-sex marriages; I don't recall this bill ever being discussed in my District meetings yet it passed unanimously. Do those who voted for this and every piece of legislation speak for those of us who were not able to attend due to other circumstances? Imposing a 30 second time constraint to cast a vote is clearly problematic for many of our elderly delegates unfamiliar with such polling technology. Failure to have a uniform time period between 1st and 2nd or 2nd and 3rd Ballots exposes the system to waste, fraud and abuse. I would offer the following 10 Point Plan for correcting our current predicament of AME disenfranchisement:

Allow every AME Pastor and Presiding Elder the right to vote for a Bishop, General Officers and all legislation. All AME pastors and PEs are unable to attend or serve as a voting delegate but it only stands to reason that these clergy should have a voice in deciding who they will be ultimately working for and reporting to in an employer-employee context. Implement a primary system to weed out the contenders from the pretenders for Episcopal Service. Reduce the number of guaranteed AME Delegates by 35%. Should the Connectional Church really be subsidizing the cost and providing voting privileges to ALL AME College Presidents, Chaplains and different components of WMS? The legislation that was passed in Indianapolis approved of a 35% reduction of lay and clergy delegates but didn't address the bloated number of delegates who receive an expense paid package coupled with full voting privileges. Allow every local Lay President of an AMEC the right to vote for a Bishop, General Officers and all legislation. Allow every local Church School Superintendent the right to vote for a Bishop, General Officers and all legislation. Expand the polling time from 30 seconds to 60 seconds. This is only fair for our seniors. Eliminate 2nd and 3rd Ballots and just go with a plurality on the first ballot as a winning outcome. If 10 persons are seeking an office the winner should simply be the person who receives the highest number of votes. This would result in substantial savings because there would be no need for the "walking around money" to sway undecided voters. Allow every local President of the WMS the right to vote for a Bishop, General Officers and all legislation. Allow every local YPD President the right to vote for a Bishop, General Officers and all legislation. Allow for absentee ballots to be mailed by certified letter and received in the CIO's office no later than 30 days before Gen Con.

This is just a start and there is much to do to make this proposal operational. The technology is currently available to make this work. It may not ever see the light of day because certain interest groups will work hard to "kill it before it arrives on the floor". That is to be expected but in the absence of serious electoral reform the problems of voter apathy (25% of missing ballots) and an unrepresentative population deciding critical issues translate into voter disenfranchisement. The bottom line is if we wish to engage more members to be participants in the political activities of our church the quickest way to do that is empower them with the right to vote. Questions, comments and criticisms of the above 10 Point Plan are welcomed. QED

-- Anonymous, July 23, 2004


Bill, Your plan is workable. I would suggest that most of the General Officers be replaced with hired professionals. We have Christian Recorder Editor who has some experience in mass communicating but that has not always been the case. A massive plan such as this can be ready for the next General Conference but it must be implemented by a groundswell of the Lay Members of the church. Some might characterize the groundswell as a revolution.

-- Anonymous, July 23, 2004

Out of curiosity..how do the United Methodists elect their bishops and officers?

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2004

Bro. Kirk asks a timely question.

Just today there was an item in our local paper about an Ohio minister who was just elected a bishop being either last week or this week. An accompanying item noted the re-assignment of the bishop for the West Ohio District (in which Ilive).

I know they had their General Conference earlier. So, it seems they do their bishop elections OUTSIDE the GenCon. Considerable time was spent this year (again) debating homosexuality as being incompatible with Christianity as they once again affirmed this position.

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2004

Did you know that the UMC adopted a 4 year budget (2004-2008) at ther May 2004 Gen Con which will be $612 million dollars? In contrast the AMEC adopted a budget for 2004-2008 which is set at $52 million dollars. The budget of the AMEC is one-twelfth (1/12) the size of the UMC budget. Did you know that the despite having a budget 12 times bigger than the AMEC the UMC held its Gen Con with only 1,000 voting delegates compared to the AMEC which sent nearly twice that number to Indianapolis (1,994)? While I believe the AMEC should have more not less Lay delegates at Gen Con, I am intrigued at how the UMC can accomplish more with 50% fewer delegates. QED

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2004

Bro. Bill I whole heartedly support your suggestion. I also thank you for your support of my recommended ideas for financial empowerment. And I agree with the point of the UMC with their budget and results. Further I believe that b 2012 the AME Church could see more members from outside of the United States. Much is needed and Rev. Paris is also quite correct. Let us get out of the ridiculous program of having business in our Church run by those not trained or educated in these areas. My only lament is that the Church did not seem to want to take up the charge of economic development. WE will continue despite this. May God Bless You and your family

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2004

Bill, how is the UMC church able to accomplish more with fewer delegates? $$$$$$$$$$$ That's how. God bless.

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2004

The Following link reveals how bishops are elected in the United Methodist Church, since some have asked about how it is done.

United Methodist Bishops Election

Please also note that one of my pet peeves does NOT appear in reference to them. No one is ever referred to as THE REVEREND DOCTOR, which we should all know is grammatically incorrect.

Rules of proper English Grammar and Usage, which anyyone with a doctorate degree should know, indicate that no sentence should ever have two titles in it. That is to say, The Reverend Doctor, The Reverend Mayor, and the Reverend Mr., Mrs. etc.

This should rather be written as Dr. John Doe, the Pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church or The Reverend James Smith, D. Min., D. D., LLD, but NEVER two titles used at the same time together as we write or speak.

Daniel, Payne and others knew this rule and used it properly, but today we seem to have forgotten it, especially in the Black church. It is my hope that we will eventually revisit it and teach it to our members as well.

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2004

Bro Dickens: When you mention that you want all the PE's and Pastor's to vote, do you think that will comprise of more voters than all of the chaplains, general officers and other auxillaries? If so, how would that cut the delegates by 35%, especially by including the lay delegates? I do agree with you with the plurality concept of your idea. Being there in Indy, I also would recommend instantaneous results on the screen, resulting in the stoppage of the printing the results then taking it to the chair, then displaying them on the screen. I do like your plan and this is what we need to implement. God's love forever.

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2004

F_Man asks -

"When you mention that you want all the PE's and Pastor's to vote, do you think that will comprise of more voters than all of the chaplains, general officers and other auxillaries?"

Thanks for the question. Allow me to respond by clarifiying something I descrbied earlier. My proposal for electoral reform seeks to empower more persons, Lay & Clergy, with voting rights. The core of the proposal focuses on expanded voting rights because of the current small number of voting delegates (1/10 of one percent) at Gen Con 2004 and an even smaller number with the adoption of a 35% reduction. You can have expanded voting privileges extended to the parties I describe above without necessarily having more slots allocated to folks who are "seated" at Gen Con. This can work by simply requiring non-attendees to submit their ballot for Bishop and General Officers and proposed legislation via certified mail 30 days before the start of the General Conference. Since the CIO was instrumental in requiring all proposed legislation to be in his office now 90 days before Gen Con, he could send out proposed legislation within a month to non- attendees to get their feedback and response. The non-attendees could even participate in floor discussions via special telecommunications arrangements for conference calling. You do not have to be physically present to vote. Technology makes distance moot. The conclusion is indisputable. We can expand the right to vote without burdening the Connectional Budget with bloated Gen Con expenses due to adding more folks to seat for composition purposes. As was correctly pointed out by others in a related thread, local churches and their respective Districts underwrite and fund the cost of Lay & Clergy Delegates. The CFO, Richard Lewis, appears to be looking in the wrong direction if he wishes to save on Connectional costs. The real cost savings will come from reducing the exponentially rising number of folks who are being "seated". Ironically, that population was not included in the 35% reduction. QED

-- Anonymous, July 25, 2004

Bro. Matthews, there you go again. While you personally may not like it, it is perfectly acceptable for "Reverend" to be used with titles. In fact, to be proper, it is mandatory. "Reverend" is being used as an ADJECTIVE which describes the title following the word. The error, if any, is in our use of "Reverend" as a title.

Sources: Merrimam-Webster's dictionary -- any edition, The Oxford Ameican Dictionary -- these are the ones I have. I suppose, as when you rode this horse before, you will maintain that just because it's in the dictionary, that doesn't make it right.

The Oxford American goes a step further and indicates that "Reverend", when referring to a person, is not proper without the article "the". What's improper is our use of "Reverend" as title.

-- Anonymous, July 25, 2004

Since this is off the subject of this post I will not spend any more time on it. However this is a quote from the latest Usage Manual, which I have. Usage Manuals go beyond the dictionary to describe what the correct and proper usage should be. Academic Circles require both their purchase and use.

"Reverend is a title common in correspondence as in Rev. Jane Jones. For what it is worth, sometimes the confusion comes because of the two similar words Reverend and reverent. Reverend in English is a title applied to a religious person, normally an ordained minister. Reverent is an adjective meaning "pious" or "respectful." Both words have revere as a root--Reverend literally from Latin means, "being revered" while reverent means "revering."

Proper Terms of Address for PROTESTANT CLERGY are listed as these:

In order from left to right situation in which to use these terms are: Person, Letter Address, Letter Greeting, Spoken Greeting, and Formal Introduction.

The Reverend John (or Jane) Jones; Dear Dr. (or Mr., Ms.) Jones, Dr. (or Mr., Ms.) Jones, The Reverend (or Dr.) John Jones.

Bishop (Episcopal): The Right Reverend John Jones; Bishop of __________; Dear Bishop Jones; Bishop Jones; The Right Reverend John Jones, Bishop of Detroit.

Now, whatever form of address you choose is fine with me but I will continue to do it as I was taught and as the Usage Manuals indicate they should be used.

-- Anonymous, July 25, 2004


I see many valid points to your plan especially an extension of time for the voting process from 30 to 60 seconds.

However I would strongly be opposed to a greater number of delegates for several reasons, one it would increase the already astronomical cost of the gencon. Yes I see your proposal for absentee ballots but that would mean that fewer voters would know less about the bishop candidates than they already do. And it would require even greater fund raising for the office of bishop than is already spent.

I also strongly disagree with disposing of the 2nd and succeeding ballot. If someone is going to be elected a bishop of the church he or she should be able to garner 51% of the votes cast. This could lead to larger districts overwhelming any candidate from smaller districts simply by winning the votes of his or her delegates.

Finally is it fair or prudent that the officers of a 4 or 5 member church have the same privilege as a 4,000 or 5,000 member congregation? Given that every pastor would be given a vote it would lead in my mind to tryanny of the minority.

-- Anonymous, July 25, 2004

Harold -

Thanks for the comments and observations. This proposal is definitely a "work in progress". Recall on June 8, 2004 the following comment you provided about the expected cost of the Gen Con. You opined:

"Bill here is the problem with your overwrought analysis. Simply stated if the CFO stated a $20 million figure and for the sake of argument I will agree, he was not referring to a hit on the Connectional Books. Your analysis on the costs of the RCA Dome are probably more on target with what the connectional church will be charged exclusively. The other costs you outline are the costs borne by the Episcopal Districts and the costs may approach that $20 million figure. .........I just want us to be clear that the total cost of the General Conference is NOT a line item in the Connectional Budget."

If I understood your position correctly last month, it would appear that the cost of delegates (travel & lodging) to the Gen Con is borne by the Episcopal Districts not by the Connectional Budget. Furthermore, it is my understanding that the Connectional Budget only addresses the cost of the "guaranteed" seats at the Gen Con. Now if my interpretation of these two points is incorrect, please correct. If my interpretation is correct I don't understand the CFO's rationale for seeking cost savings in Gen Con expenses when the Episcopal Districts are underwriting the costs not the Connection. The only real savings would have to come from downsizing the number of guaranteed seats and this the legislation chose not to adddress Unless I am totally clueless, the CFO's projected cost savings by requiring delegate downsizing for Lay and Clergy is "voodoo economics" (sic).

Now I think several of your observations highlight some of the challenges with implementing my modest reform proposal. I understand the support for 2nd & 3rd ballots. It is nothing more than a run-off system designed to get a majority (50%) for an elected position. My only point is that run-offs are expensive and in our case lead to waste, fraud and abuse due to the "walking around money". I would rather see "walking around money " being used to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, providing shelter to the homeless, comforting our elederly and widows and educating our young barren minds, not courting voters for personal and professional gain. That's just my view of the world.

A plurality is a first ballot and the winner may or may not get a majority of the votes. Most elections in our country (Presidential excluding the Electoral College, Gubernatorial, Congress, State Legislators, Mayors, etc.) are based on pluralities, not run-offs.

The point you raise about "tyranny of the minority" is very important. Under my plan, smaller congregations would be treated equally with larger congregations. The principle of one pastor, one vote is the rule. I acknowledge from an equity position this "hurts" larger congregations. Maybe what I need to think about is having a compromise similar to how the Founding Fathers of the US resolved the dispute about less-populated states being represented in the US Congress by requiring two senators from each state irrespective of size but Reps would vary according to population. QED

-- Anonymous, July 26, 2004

I think it is time to start getting a complete Elections System on paper and electronic in place so the the excellent ideas can be condensed into a complete proposal for GC 3008. For example, if your proposal was completed in say six months, we could have it available for review and comment by the 2005, 2006, and 2007 series of Annual Conferences. At the time we could set up a Web Site dedicated to the proposal so that those Online could review and comment. It is possible for every potential delegate to have seen this proposal before the General Conference 2008. I can supply Host the Web Site if someone has the time to manage it.

-- Anonymous, July 26, 2004

Well, since we're brainstorming:

I would reduce the GenCon population by reducing the minimum number of delegates for a confeence from 4 to 3, reducing the overage number by increasing their representation from 4000 to 5000, and reducing the overall number of annual conferences where appropriate (Texas has resturctured from 7 to 4, for example).

Now I forgot my othert thoughts...

-- Anonymous, July 26, 2004

Oh yeah:

I would allow multiple ballots, but how about dropping half the candidates on each ballot? For example, if there were 60 for bishop the last election, then the bottom 30 would be dropped from ballot 2, 15 from ballot 3, etc. It would save some time on the floor (but also eliminate animportantg campaigning tool for subsequent elections - withness Bryant in 1984).

-- Anonymous, July 26, 2004

I agree with the increase of lay people. I personally view lay people as stock holders of this zion who are horribly misrepresented. The percentage of clergy delegates is equal if not more than lay. That is not an equal represenation from the entire zion.

It would be inappropriate to take the majority rules only for election of any office is we are ruled by roberts rules of orders. it clearly states half plus one is the deciding vote.

electronic elections and 30 seconds is both sufficient in quality of results and ample amount of time. the problem we face is the misuse of the system. each delegate should be assigned proper assigned seating that should remain throughout gencon. by doing so the voting equipment can be assigned specifically do that delegate. contrary to what presiding officers have told us, the system is able to track who has voted and what their vote is. by using this feature we would be able to 1. detect which delegate was seated during the vote 2. accountability and demand that either the delegate or the alternate was seated 3. erradicate the question of integrity within our election process.

-- Anonymous, August 03, 2004

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