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Election Guidance for State Conferences

FAQs on Election of AAUP State Conference Officers

This provides general guidance for AAUP State Conferences on the federal and AAUP requirements governing nominations and elections of conference officers. (Guidance for chapters is here.) There may be additional requirements under a conference’s constitution, and in some instances under state law. The below also has links to AAUP sample material and to guidance from the US Department of Labor.

Are there rules that apply to the election of state conference officers?

The AAUP Constitution does not have provisions that directly govern state conference elections. Federal law applies to elections of officers in certain state conferences. As of July 1, 2019, federal law only applies to state conferences that have private sector collective bargaining chapters as members. However, the US Department of Labor has issued proposed regulations that would apply federal law to all AAUP state conferences. It is uncertain when any such regulations will be effective.

What officers does a state conference need?

The state conference constitution establishes the officers of the conference. Generally, a state conference should have at least the following officers: president, vice-president, and treasurer (or secretary-treasurer). Many conferences have additional officers, such as board members or trustees, or a separate secretary. Under federal law, all conference officers must be elected at least once every four years.

What happens if there is a vacancy in an officer position?

If there is a vacancy in an officer position, the vacancy can be filled for up to the remainder of the term as provided by a conference’s constitution or bylaws. Under federal law a secret ballot election does not need to be held to fill a vacancy.

How are state conference elections conducted?

Under federal law, state conference officers can be elected either by a secret ballot of the individual members in the state conference or by a vote of delegates from chapters (which would be comparable to the AAUP national elections). If state conference officers are elected by chapter delegates, those delegates would need to be elected by a secret ballot of the chapter’s member under the same rules as apply to elections of chapter delegates to the AAUP meeting. Therefore, the guidance on election of chapter delegates for the AAUP meeting would apply equally to the election of any chapter delegates to a state conference meeting. However, a state conference is not required to use delegate elections, and any chapter constitution that provided for state conference delegates would be ineffective if the state conference does not provide for delegate elections.

How are nominations conducted?

Members must always be provided with a reasonable opportunity to nominate individuals for officer positions. Under federal law, the state conference must provide notice of the offices to be filled, and the deadlines and requirements for submitting nominations in a way that is reasonably calculated to reach all the members, such as through prominent display in a union newsletter sent to all members or through email notice to members. (Mail notice of nominations is allowed, but not required.)

Who is eligible to be nominated to serve as an officer?

To be eligible to serve as an officer an individual must be a member in good standing of the AAUP and of the state conference. In addition, under federal law, individuals convicted of certain crimes may not serve until 13 years after conviction or release from imprisonment. Conferences can also have other reasonable and uniform requirements for candidates.

If there is only one nominee, do we need to hold a ballot election?

No. If there has been a reasonable opportunity for nominations, and the conference does not permit write in votes, the conference is not required to conduct balloting. The prohibition of write-in votes may be in the conference constitution, in a policy or rule, or a matter of past practice. For example, the conference’s Executive Board could pass a policy, or include in any elections rules or policies, language such as: “Write in votes are not permitted. In the event that only one candidate is nominated for a given office, no ballot election is required, and that candidate is considered elected by acclamation.”

How do we hold a ballot election of the entire membership?

The election method used by most state conferences is for all conference members to vote by a secret mail ballot distributed by and tabulated by the state conference. Under this method, the notice of election can be mailed along with the election ballot. Alternatively, individual secret balloting can be held at the chapter level, the same as elections of chapter officers, either at a chapter meeting or via a ballot of the chapter members. Those votes could be tabulated at the chapter level, and the vote totals transmitted to the state conference. (The tabulation would only be of the votes of individual members casting ballots, the chapters would not vote chapter strength.) Members not in a chapter could vote via mail ballot.  All members should vote using the same general ballot and the same general rules (e.g. rules on write-ins) and time frame (e.g. during the first week of March). Under federal law, electronic voting is not currently feasible. Electronic voting may be conducted for elections not governed by federal law. The Department of Labor has useful guidance, sample forms and material, for union officer elections and for conducting mail ballot elections under federal law.

How do we notify the membership of the secret ballot election?

If a ballot election of the entire membership is held, federal law requires that a notice of the election be mailed to all members’ at their home addresses at least 15 days prior to the election. Even if the individual balloting is held at the chapter level, the election notice must still be mailed to each member’s home address. (A mail notice of the ballot election is required even if the election is held at a union meeting.) If the election is held by mail ballot, the notice of the election can be mailed along with the ballot, so long as the members have at least 15 days to cast their ballot.

How do we hold a delegate ballot election?

Instead of a vote by the individual members, state conference officers can be elected by a vote of delegates from chapters that make up the state conference. This method of election is only available if the state conference does not admit to membership AAUP members who are not members of a chapter in the state (such as at-large AAUP members.) If state conference officers are elected by chapter delegates, those chapter delegates would need to be elected by a secret ballot the chapter’s member under the same procedures that apply to the election of chapter delegates to the AAUP meeting. (For example, a chapter officer elected by secret ballot could serve as a state conference delegate if provided for by the chapter constitution.)

Additional Material

US Department of Labor