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Saturday, November 19, 2016
The Department of Labor Files Lawsuit Over Electronic Balloting Process
As a product of its long-standing distrust and rejection of modern technology, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) filed a lawsuit against our union, challenging parts of the electronic balloting process by which the APFA National Officers were most recently elected. The DOL’s review of the elections was triggered by a complaint filed by an unsuccessful candidate for a National Officer position. The DOL now claims that the elections did not comply with the “observability” and “secrecy” provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, the federal law that governs union elections. As APFA intends to demonstrate in court, this technical attack on our elections is without merit.
Ironically, the DOL is seeking to re-run our elections despite the fact that it does not claim that the results of the elections were inaccurate. To the contrary, the DOL admits that there is no evidence whatsoever that even a single vote was recorded incorrectly. Furthermore, the DOL also admits that there is no evidence whatsoever that the votes were tabulated inaccurately. Instead, it asserts that the elections should be re-run because candidates were denied the right to observe the recording and counting of ballots, as those tasks were performed electronically (inside computers) rather than in person. In short, it attacks the process even though the results of the elections were valid.
The DOL’s “secrecy” claim is that an electronic connection hypothetically could have been made between a voter and his or her vote. But the DOL admits that there is no evidence whatsoever that there was a breach of the secrecy of any ballot. It also admits that there is no evidence whatsoever that there was even an attempt to breach secrecy. Instead, the DOL speculates that ballot secrecy could have been compromised – even though it was not – basing its claim largely on computer programming that, to our knowledge, did not even exist at the time the elections were conducted.
APFA has total and complete confidence in our National Ballot Committee and in BallotPoint, our electronic voting vendor. The company is the leader in the field and has conducted union officer elections for a large number of unions. In addition, unlike the DOL, two other U.S. government agencies have trusted BallotPoint to properly conduct union representation elections in the airline world and for federal workers: the National Mediation Board (for airline and railroad work group) and the Federal Labor Relations Authority (for federal government employee work groups). BallotPoint has run more than 2,700 elections, with more than 1.5 million votes cast, without a single court finding an observability or secrecy violation.
It is important to note that the DOL has not suggested that anyone at BallotPoint or at APFA — including the National Ballot Committee and the National Officers who were elected – engaged in any wrongdoing whatsoever. No individuals are named in the suit. Rather, APFA’s long-standing and well established election process is caught up in the DOL’s misguided effort to resist moving into the 21st century. We would have hoped that the DOL would recognize that computers, other electronic devices, smart phones and the internet are an integral part of our everyday lives.
Electronic balloting has accurately, securely and lawfully promoted democracy within our union and many others. It allows members to cast their votes any time of day or night and from virtually anywhere in the world, including layover hotels in Europe, Latin America and Asia.
Democracy is what union elections are all about. Our membership spoke and APFA will fight to ensure that their voice is honored.
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