Revisiting the Single-Candidate Slate

Last year, the Board of Directors considered proposing a change to the AIHA bylaws that would have modified the nomination process for officer positions (but not for directors-at-large). The process under consideration called for the Nominating Committee to propose single-candidate slates for vice president, secretary, and treasurer. These candidates would appear unopposed on the election ballot, but members would have the option to write in a candidate of their choice.

This process would have solved a recurring problem: the shortage of qualified candidates willing to run for office. However, a few members expressed concerns that the process would not be democratic, so the Board agreed to delay bringing this change before the membership.  WHY SINGLE-CANDIDATE SLATES? A 2017 study of 341 associations conducted by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) indicated that 48 percent currently use single-candidate slates for board positions. One reason these associations favor single-candidate slates is that qualified people who lose an election tend not to be willing to run again. There is also concern that nominating committees may “force-select” candidates based on who they would like to win.
A 2017 study of 341 associations conducted by the American Society of Association Executives indicated that 48 percent currently use single-candidate slates for board positions.
CYNTHIA A. OSTROWSKI, CIH, is AIHA president and owner of CAO Consulting near Detroit, Mich. She can be reached via email.

The AIHA Nominating Committee strives to provide two qualified individuals for all open positions. Normally there are several nominees for the director positions, but the committee is finding it increasingly difficult to provide two qualified individuals for officer positions. The committee has had to beg colleagues to run multiple times just to meet the bylaws requirement for two candidates for each position.  There are several reasons for the lack of qualified candidates. Senior members are leaving the association as they retire from the profession. Early-career professionals lack AIHA experience. Some people don’t want to run against friends, colleagues, or business associates. And, as the ASAE study found, those who have lost an election are hesitant to run again. Local sections have experienced these difficulties for many years. In fact, many if not all local sections use single-candidate slates for officers. Technically, this practice is not in compliance with AIHA’s bylaws, which local sections are expected to follow. But AIHA national understands the reasons for single-candidate slates and has never made an issue of local sections’ nomination processes. If national adopts single-candidate slates, then it would be in step with our local sections. IMPROVEMENTS TO THE NOMINATIONS PROCESS The Board ultimately decided not to propose changing from multi-candidate to single-candidate slates this year, but the Board did take steps to improve the Nominating Committee. Members of the Nominating Committee include the AIHA vice president and a third-year director. The presence of a director ensures the membership has an indirect voice in the candidate selection process. Previously, the AIHA past president selected individuals to participate on the Nominating Committee. Members raised concerns that this process was open to nepotism and manipulation by the Board. Beginning this year, the Board now requires individuals interested in serving on the Nominating Committee to submit an application and resume that highlight their AIHA-related experience.  In addition, the Board clarified the criteria the Nominating Committee uses to select candidates for AIHA officer positions. The most critical criterion for officer candidates is recent service on the Board. If no candidates with recent Board service can be identified, other criteria will be used, including experience within local sections and volunteer groups. Ultimately, all candidates recommended by the Nominating Committee must be approved by the full Board. The expectations of Nominating Committee members and the rigorous process they must follow when selecting candidates are spelled out in great detail in the AIHA Member Center. ASSOCIATION TRENDS As more associations adjust their nominations process, it’s likely that the AIHA Board will again consider proposing a bylaws change that would adopt single-candidate slates for officers while retaining multi-candidate slates for directors-at-large. When that time comes, I encourage members to support the proposal.