FAQs on Changes to Chapter Elections Due to the COVID-19 Emergency

Threats posed by COVID-19, and the resulting requirements for social distancing, have created an emergency that might interfere with some chapter elections. Chapters may be able to adjust their election rules, procedures, and timing as necessary in response to the emergency. The questions and answers below provide crisis-specific guidance for chapters that supplements the general election guidance for chapters.

Can a chapter postpone or modify election of chapter officers due to the COVID-19 emergency?

If it is impossible to hold an election as normal due to the COVID-19 emergency, a chapter may be able to postpone its election and/or modify its election procedures. Chapters should first review their chapter constitutions and any chapter election procedures. Chapters in the public sector should review any applicable state or local laws, and chapters in the private sector should review federal LMRDA requirements. Chapters may be able to modify their election procedures, for example, by changing to a mail ballot election. (The AAUP’s 2020 Emergency Election Rules are an example of election modifications.) Chapters may also be able to postpone the elections. Any postponement should only last until the COVID-19 emergency necessitating the postponement has subsided. The chapter should also make any changes to election procedures necessary to ensure adequate opportunity for nominations, election notices, observers, and campaigning by candidates.

What type of approval is needed to postpone or modify the election of chapter officers?

Chapter officers should review their chapter constitution as this may provide authority for postponement of or modifications to chapter elections. If there are no such provisions, normally a membership vote or constitutional amendment would be necessary for substantial changes or postponements. However, if such a vote is not feasible because of the COVID-19 emergency, the chapter’s executive board, along with any chapter elections committee, may be able to approve changes. The executive board should hold a formal board meeting (remotely if necessary), exercise the board’s authority to interpret the constitution and determine that an emergency exists, and vote on postponement or modifications to the election procedures necessary to weather the emergency. This should be recorded in minutes and the membership should be promptly notified. Such actions do not require the approval of the AAUP.

Can a chapter hold electronic elections?

Chapters can hold the nominations of officers or delegates electronically, such as by email with a mail option. If there is only one nominee for each position, the AAUP and federal labor law do not require a ballot election, though one may be necessary under a chapter’s constitution or bylaws. If a secret ballot is necessary, chapters in the public sector may be able to hold electronic elections of chapter officers if permitted by state law. However, for officer elections in private-sector chapters, and for any election of delegates to the Biennial Meeting in public- or private-sector chapters, electronic elections pose complications and should be reviewed with local counsel.

Can chapter officers continue in office if an election is postponed?

If an election cannot be held, elected chapter officers may continue in their offices until it is feasible to hold an election.

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