Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Drilling Down the 2009 AFSA Election Results

23.91% of AFSA Membership Voted

The Election Committee had certified the winners of the 2009 AFSA Elections. If you have not seen the results yet, check out NoDoubleStandards' post here with the winning candidates identified by slate or the official announcement of the results in The new Governing Board will take office on July 15 for the 2009-2011 term.

I’ve sent an email to the chair of the AFSA Elections Committee inquiring about the voters’ composition, and got this response back yesterday:

"Thank you for your question. Although I would welcome knowing who you are, I can inform you that the Committee released the certified election results to all candidates at about 10:30 PM June 15. This morning we expect to send out an AFSA message with a link to AFSA's website containing the voting tally by constituency,

Thank you for your interest. And thank you for not disclosing my personal email address on your blog."

Well, that’s what you get for being an anonymous blogger in your pjs (do you think, I’d have gotten a better response if I had a real name like Dandelion Silver instead of the unimaginative DS?) In any case, a Diplopundit source was kind enough to forward me the voting composition. AFSA has now posted that document online (pdf) but its seems only page 1 is available online; the other pages have not been included. So -- here is the AFSA membership and constituency breakdown as of 2008 (from annual report).

Total AFSA Members as of 2008: 13,905

State: 63.3 % (8,801)

Retiree: 26.4 % (3,670)

USAID: 7.1 % (987)

Associates: 1 % (139)

FCS: 1.2 % (166)

FAS: 0.8 % (111)

IBB: 0.1 % (13)

According to its latest Annual Report, AFSA has 13,905 dues-paying members as of 2008. There were 3,326 ballots cast in this election, slightly higher than the last five AFSA elections. However, the ballots cast still amount to about 24% of the total AFSA membership (see Dead Men Working's post on election stats here).

I'm not a numbers guru but there are some rather curious details when you drill down on these numbers. If you read the numbers differently, please feel free to add a comment:

Active-duty State employees are the largest voting bloc in AFSA at 63.3% of the total membership. In this election, State employees account for 1,459 of the total votes or 43% of the votes counted. However, 1,459 votes out of approximately 8,801 due-paying members amount to only 16.57% of this constituency. In short – only slightly more than 15% of active-duty State AFSA members sent in their votes.

Retirees are the second largest constituents of AFSA at 26.4% of the total membership. In this election, AFSA retirees account for 1,568 of the total votes or 47% of the votes counted. However, 1,568 retiree votes out of approximately 3,670 dues-paying retiree members amount to 42% of this constituency. In short – almost half the total AFSA retiree members sent in their votes.

And that made a difference.

David Firestein of CLEAN Slate won the majority votes in the AID, FAS and FCS constituencies; he also won the State votes by a thin margin. However, Susan Johnson of Team AFSA got the miniscule IBB votes and the Retiree votes; the latter is important because the retiree bloc decided this election with 927 voting for Johnson against 603 who voted for Firestein. They have also decided to return Tex Harris as Secretary (for a 5th term) and Andrew Winter as Treasurer (for a 3rd term). (See the Governing Board composition here for the last five terms, 2001-2011; names marked in bold red have been elected more than one term). CLEAN Slate's VP candidate, Daniel Hirsch also made the line-up, which must give those "ghost voters" in the AFSA forum some indigestion. On the representatives for the two largest constituencies -- 8 candidates ran for 4 seats as Retiree Reps ; all 4 seats were carried by Team AFSA. On the State Representatives, 27 candidates ran for 9 open seats; CLEAN Slate won all but two of these seats. Which makes for an interesting combination in the new Governing Board: Team AFSA (10), CLEAN Slate (9), Unaligned/Undeclared? (5).

Now – I’m not sure why a large chunk of active-duty State employees did not vote. It could be because -- 1) they are happy with their lot; 2) they have no confidence in AFSA, 3) they feel their votes won’t make a difference, 4) they feel turned off by the negative tone of the campaign; 5) they forgot to send in their votes; 6) they meant to vote but ran out of time or 7) they feel anybody from the FS would represent them just as well. Did I miss any other reason for not sending in the ballot? C’mon, you can dish here, can’t you?

What seems striking -- at least to me, is that the retiree bloc has decided to a large extent, the composition of the leadership of the AFSA Governing Board in this election (I don’t know if this has always been the case, enlighten me, if you have some AFSA history). The other thing that’s striking is how a few names kept popping up in the Governing Board list in the last 10 years. I do think it is admirable that experienced hands are willing to contribute their time and talents to AFSA's work on behalf of the Foreign Service. However, it is also undeniable that AFSA needs to grow the next generation of leaders needed to negotiate with management on issues affecting a changing Foreign Service. It would be interesting to see if this incoming Board recognizes the importance of cultivating its leadership pipeline for the next decade.


Matt Keene said...

And what I find extremely odd: although the Committee on Elections found that CLEAN Slate violated the "Instructions to Candidates" by ripping off personal email addresses from AFSA's online membership list, it never informed its membership of the infraction, only the other candidates. And it apparently will be left unpunished.

Matt Keene said...

I've linked to you here:

Anonymous said...

Hi NDS - Thanks for the links, much appreciated. I don't know the entire story about those email addresses. I've been told that this was not true. I saw the ltr the Elections Committee sent out to the candidates through your post, but I don't know what kind of investigations it conducted and why it was announced the day before the counting. I would like to see some sunshine on that but it's probably not going to happen ...

Speaking of infractions, I noticed that both the outgoing AFSA Prez and State VP endorsed one team over the other. I understand that they were not precluded from doing this, but can only do so in their personal capacities. If they were endorsing one slate over another using their AFSA titles as they have done in the forum, I imagine that this would also be election infractions?

But the thing is -- there appears to be no clear penalties on these stuff and I have no idea what is the process the EC goes through to conduct a transparent investigation on any of the allegations. There were folks in the election forum who have written that they did not post the previous messages there posted under their names, but those did not seem to cross the radar screen of the Committee either.

Ah, elections ...