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Don’t Forget to Vote!

If you are an INFORMS member (if you are interested in operations research, why aren’t you a member?), you should have received an email yesterday directing you to a website to vote for the next set of members of the Board of Directors.  That email has all the information you need to vote:  your member number and a code word.  You go to the website, enter those two numbers, get a form and spend a minute or two voting.  The candidate bios and platform statements are clickable from the ballot, so you don’t even have to research before hand (though if you want to, the candidate information is available).  A few points:

  • Your vote really does count.  The year before I got elected President, the Presidential vote resulted in a tie.  One extra vote either way would have prevented a run-off.
  • The candidates are chosen by a Nominating Committee (something the Past President chairs), though people can put themselves on the ballot by petition.  The latter used to happen more often:  it seems pretty rare these days.
  • INFORMS uses approval voting, where you can vote for as many candidates as you want for each position.  In many cases, I end up voting for all of the proposed candidates.  This is particularly true if I do not know the candidates, or I know them both equally well, and if I think they will do about equally well in positions.  Sometimes I have stronger feelings, so vote for one (or decidedly don’t vote for one!).  While it is equivalent in terms of the winner to vote for none as to vote for all, in terms of meeting quorum requirements, it is better to vote for all.  By the way, approval voting works much better when there are three or more candidates (or more than one position to be filled from the same set of candidates).  Approval voting to choose the winner between two candidates, as this election is, doesn’t add much (though I like the opportunity to vote for all or, rarely, none).
  • A number of candidates are running unopposed.  INFORMS allows its Vice Presidents to have two terms in a position.  Often, the nominating committee will decide to run someone up for reelection unopposed.  It doesn’t always happen, but it is the norm.
  • INFORMS does not announce number of votes in an election.  I was on the Board when that rule was created (and may even have formulated the rule).  The ideas was to not embarrass candidates who lose a blow-out election.  Now, I am not 100% convinced this is a good rule:  there is information in the votes (for instance, knowing the number who voted for none of the candidates versus those who voted for all).  Even the nominating committee does not know the number of votes, so, for instance, a candidate who came very close to winning might not get nominated again, while a candidate that the electorate soundly rejected might get renominated the next year.  Perhaps it is time for INFORMS to rethink this rule.

I sat on the INFORMS Board for six years, and am now completing six years on the IFORS Board.  Sitting on boards is generally interesting and rewarding (it is sometimes mind-numbingly dull, but I treat that as useful training in discipline).  I have met some really fascinating and wonderful people through the boards, and those contacts have been useful years after our terms ended.

We should be greatful that people are willing to give their time to boards like INFORMS.  If you are a member, now would be a good time to spend a couple minutes voting.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Egon Balas | August 6, 2009 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the explanation. I don’t know whether it did, but it could have come in response to my comment earlier today upon entering my vote on the INFORMS website. I said that the nominating process seems in this case to be more important than the actual voting, and therefore it would be desirable to have it explained when asking for the vote.

  2. Michael Trick | August 6, 2009 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    While it didn’t come from your comment (I’m no longer on the INFORMS Board, and I’m not sure who actually sees the comments: I certainly don’t!), I have heard it from a number of people that the nominating process could use a bit more visibility/transparency.