USAT restaging election

USA Triathlon, the national federation for triathlon in the United States, is conducting its entire 2013 annual election over again.

The vote was held in all ways appropriately according to our reporting; nothing untoward; no bad motives or wrongdoing. Rather, there was a mistake, and that triggered a partial revote, just of elite athletes. During the construction of a new ballot a further issue was uncovered that, in concert with the first issue, triggered the decision to hold a membership-wide revote.

Each USAT election requires a number of ballots to be generated. Because there are 4 regions electing a board member every election cycle, that’s 4 ballots. But a 5th ballot must be sent, because resolutions may be on a ballot requiring a vote of all the membership, including for those members who live in a region not electing a board member in the current cycle.

Elite athletes fall into 2 discrete cohorts: those who are “pool” athletes and who are therefore eligible to vote for an “elite” board member (age group athletes cannot vote for elites, and there are 3 elite board seats out of the 11 total seats on USAT’s board of directors). Another type of elite athlete is that pro not part of nor has engaged in Olympic-style racing at all or at a high level. But that athlete can still vote for a governing group sitting alongside and under the board of directors called the “AAC” or Athlete Advisory Council. Because these two cohorts also vote for general directors, this increases the total number of ballots distributed to 15.

It’s not unlike ballots in any general election, where various cohorts in a state feature ballots with both statewide, county and municipal elections, schoolboard elections, judicial elections and the like. In all USAT produced 17 ballots during this past election, each with their own set of specific voting options.

The original problem was a ballot sent to the wrong elite cohort, that is, one elite cohort’s ballot was sent to another. But in the process of generating new ballots it was discovered that one elite on one ballot may not have been an annual member in time to have his or her name on the ballot according to USAT’s bylaws. An inquiry was convened, the result of which has only recently been returned, and the ballot will remain as it was during the original voting (no candidate has been disqualified from having his or her name on the ballot during the upcoming revote).

Because elites vote for both general and elite directors, the entire election is being re-run.

If there is a silver lining, it is that the entire election process is being looked at afresh, specifically the notion that a pool elite athlete can vote for candidates in 2 board seats, while general members are restricted to a vote for 1 board seat. The new board, once it has been seated, after the upcoming election, promises to take up this question, and one possible outcome is to grant an elite athlete eligible to vote for both an general and elite seat the choice for which board seat he or she wishes to vote for, such athlete then restricted to a vote for one board seat or the other, but not both.

Only annual USAT members in good standing as of August 22 of last year will be eligible to vote. This was the cut-off date for last year’s voting eligibility.

The election was not without its controversy. It was alleged (and is alleged, due to the revote) that in this election an attempt is made to "pack" the board with "elite" members, taking advantage of the opportunity for elites to vote for both the general and elite board seats. Not only have elite athletes been able to vote for two board candidates, those eligible to run for elite board seats are also eligible, under current rules, to run for general membership seats. Longtime USAT board member Jack Weiss - USAT's current treasurer - wrote an opinion piece on Slowtwitch, the link to which is below this article.

There is also a resolution on the ballot that, according to some, seeks to restrict or abridge the transparency requirements embedded in the bylaws. Elite board member Victor Plata wrote a guest editorial urging against a vote for that resolution (link below).

The 2013 election revote should, according to USAT, commence within the week.