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Association News
APA's Election Guidelines Emphasize Dignity, Courtesy, and Fairness
Psychiatric News
Volume 43 Number 20 page 17-17

With the announcement of the Nominating Committee's selection of candidates for the 2009 election (Psychiatric News, October 3), the campaign season is under way, and members may want to familiarize themselves with the campaign guidelines.

The APA Elections Committee is charged with establishing procedures, with the approval of the Board of Trustees, for equitable voting of the membership. These procedures are documented in the election guidelines section of the Operations Manual.

Guidelines prescribing members' election-related activities were established by the Board in the early 1970s, when APA began having contested elections. Campaigning restrictions were adopted initially to address four major concerns: (1) to guard against massive campaign efforts" buying" an election win, particularly if those efforts were financed by resources from outside the membership, (2) the revulsion against campaign committees and unwelcome bids for public support, (3) the growing distress of the membership at being deluged with campaign materials, and (4) a belief among some members that large-scale campaigning was inconsistent with their conception of APA's professional image. The concerns are as valid today as they were in the '70s, and the guidelines continue to address them.

The intent of the guidelines is "to encourage fair and open campaigning by APA members on a level playing field, foster opportunities for candidates to educate their colleagues about the issues and about their experiences and views, keep costs down, and maintain dignified and courteous conduct appropriate to the image of a profession." Personal attacks against opponents are not permitted.

Most important is the stipulation that candidates and their supporters must use their own resources for election activities (A.1 below). Use of APA, Area Council/state association, or district branch resources or personnel is prohibited. The limits on the number of letters that each person may write (400 letters or 100 for Area office) make it manageable for any member wishing to support a candidate (see section C.1 below).

The guidelines for use of electronic media should be noted carefully. While there is no limit on the number of campaign messages that may be sent by e-mail (B.1, first paragraph), members supporting candidates in this way must begin the subject line with the words "APA Campaigning."

The only APA-supported list serve that may be used for campaigning is Member-to-Member (B.1, third paragraph). District branch and Area list serves may not be used. List serves of other psychiatric organizations may be used for campaigning only if permitted by those organizations. A guideline approved in March 2006 allows candidates to create their own list serves to facilitate communication with and among their supporters.

APA's Web site will once again contain information about candidates, with links to the homepages of candidates who have Web sites.

The Elections Committee recognizes that there always will be problems in implementing the guidelines and in creating guidelines that are inherently equitable. However, over time members have indicated their satisfaction with the current guidelines, believing that the guidelines have achieved the objectives for which they were designed. The committee investigates any possible violation of which it becomes aware and reports violations to the Board (D.3). The committee is open to suggestions from members on how to improve or change the guidelines.

The Elections Committee encourages members to get involved in the election process and to support the candidates of their choice by writing personal letters or e-mails or by personal contact.

Ballots for the 2009 election will be mailed December 22, and voting members with email addresses on file with APA will receive an e-mail with instructions for voting online. Election information will be included in the December 5 issue of Psychiatric News.

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