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The Planet

Club Members to Vote on Directors, Immigration Limits

Fifteen candidates compete for five slots

Another Sierra Club election is upon us. This year, not only are 15 candidates running for the board of directors, there are three ballot measures, two of which would alter rules for future elections, and a third about whether the Club should adopt a policy on limiting immigration into the United States.

The Sierra Club is a democratically structured organization that depends on members to make important decisions about its governance. "Democracy works," says Club President Larry Fahn, "but only if everyone participates."

Voting in elections at all levels of the Club is both a privilege and a responsibility of membership, he says, and the Club requires a free flow of views on policy and priorities in order to function effectively.

Members will elect five representatives to serve three-year terms on the 15-member board, which oversees staff and volunteer activities, sets conservation priorities, and approves the annual budget. The candidates are listed below.

The Population Ballot Question asks members: "Shall the Sierra Club policy on immigration, adopted by the Board of Directors in 1999 and revised in 2003, be changed to recognize the need to adopt lower limits on migration to the United States?"

The Club board of directors recommends a "no" vote on this question.

The two other ballot measures propose changes to the by-laws that affect the election. Bylaws Change #1 would remove the requirement to provide space for write-in candidates on the ballot. Bylaws Change #2 requires one year of continuous membership in the Sierra Club in order to run for the board. (Currently, members can file a petition to run for office on the same day they become a member.)

The board recommends a "yes" vote on the two bylaws changes.

Last year, shortly after the Club election cycle ended, Fahn created the Sierra Election Reform Task Force, chaired by longtime leader Susan Heitman, and including representatives from various groups within the Club. The task force recommendations led to the proposed bylaws changes.

In addition, the board adopted a new rule giving chapters the opportunity to endorse board candidates and publish their endorsements in their newsletters and Web sites. (This is a one-year experiment.)

Two-thirds of the executive committee must vote to endorse, and the statement of endorsement can only be one sentence: "The [name of chapter] recommends a vote for [name(s) of candidates] in the upcoming election for the Sierra Club Board of Directors."

Chapters and groups may take positions on ballot questions and publish their recommendations in newsletters and Web sites as editorials. Other published material, such as letters to the editor or official statements by ballot question position coordinators, must be balanced for pro and con views when published. Newsletters and Web sites cannot accept advertising promoting positions or candidates.

Seven of the board candidates were selected by the nominating committee, an eight-member body that reviews aspiring candidates every year and puts forward a slate of candidates. Eight candidates are running as petition candidates, which means that they have collected signatures supporting their candidacy from one-twentieth of 1 percent of members. (That's 381 signatures for this election.)

Overseeing the election to ensure fairness and resolve disputes are three "inspectors of election" appointed by the board. Chief Inspector Marvin Baker, a retired University of Oklahoma geography professor and member since 1968, says that the board acted in response to calls from grassroots leaders to involve the chapters in a more meaningful way in the election. "Our goal is to make the elections as fair and participatory as possible," he says.

Last year's election controversy generated a spate of coverage in local and national newspapers, even a New York Times editorial. Due to the extensive publicity, more Club members voted than ever before-171,616 voters, or 22.7 percent of Club members.

To find out more about the candidates and measures, visit - which includes a candidate forum where candidates answer questions posted by members.

Club members should receive their ballots in the mail by mid-March. Votes must be cast by noon eastern daylight time on April 25. To vote online, follow the instructions in your printed ballot.

An independent company with long experience in conducting elections for national organizations will count the ballots.

Click here to see a list of candidates

- John Byrne Barry

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