As you know, the Leadership Election is fast approaching. Beginning May 1, voters can reach their electronic polling place from any Internet-connected computer in the world via a link on the IFT homepage, www.ift.org. The link will remain active for the duration of the election, until June 1, 2005. For information on election procedures, including important instructions for members who do not use e-mail, see page 72.
I look forward to this election and the likelihood that this convenient, modern ballot method will raise your awareness and encourage you to vote. I am pleased to report that the online voting system has been extensively tested by volunteer and staff working groups and fully operational since February. Twenty Divisions, 11 Sections, and the IFTSA will have been using it by the time this article appears. Their feedback has been closely monitored and used to improve practices.
Two successful elections, those of the Chicago Section and the International Division, were completed in March. The news is good. Susan Monckton, Past Chair of the Chicago Section, wrote, "Overall, I received very positive comments on the electronic voting. Our turnout was better than last year, making for a 21% increase in voters. . . .You really made this into an easier process for us." Twenty-three percent (23.3%) of International Division voters cast their ballots, a very high turnout for an IFT contest. In fact, only 10.7% of eligible voters participated in IFT’s most recent paper ballot in November. I believe these figures demonstrate the potential for enfranchisement that Web-based voting carries.
The decision to adopt this new methodology was not taken lightly. There was an extensive review and evaluation of other existing best practices and added input from a Task Force. Based on this information, the Executive Committee unanimously voted in favor of electronic elections. Increased ability for all members to participate was a key consideration. There is no longer a reliance on mail systems for non-U.S. members and frequent travelers, and IFT has experienced problems with international mail in the past. Fiscal responsibility continues to be a focus, and each online election saves thousands of dollars. The technology chosen is user-friendly, maintains the privacy and confidentiality that voters rightly expect, and virtually eliminates human error in counting and reporting. Associations of similar size, scope, and member profile have been successfully voting online for about five years and consistently report higher voter turnout.
Any computer in the world with Internet access can be used for voting, not just one’s personal computer. Public libraries offer free Internet access. Coffee shops, business centers, and Internet cafes are great places to go online. If you are concerned about the best way to find a computer—and a person who can help use one—talk to family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. IFT volunteers are asked to reach out to members that may be less comfortable with technology. Please encourage others to do the same. This is an opportunity to be proactive in building community and supporting our colleagues.
Voter assistance will also be available from IFT staff throughout the election. We will have a help desk at the IFT office to "walk through" the system and guide anyone who might feel uneasy; just call if you have a question.
Finally, I am pleased to announce that IFT members will select from an exemplary list of qualified candidates. Voters will choose a President-elect and two Membership Representatives to the Executive Committee. The nominees for IFT President-elect are Roger A. Clemens and Dennis R. Heldman. The nominees for Membership Representative are James J. Albrecht, Eric A. Decker, Daniel B. Dennison, and B. Onuma Okezie.
This year, Councilors will elect two Councilor Representatives to the Executive Committee and three members of the Committee on Nominations & Elections. The candidates for Councilor Representative are Colin Dennis, Moira McGrath, John H. Rupnow, and Katherine M.J. Swanson. The candidates for Committee on Nominations & Elections are Michelle A. Buchanan, Richard H. Dougherty, William C. Haines, David K. Park, and George A. Purvis.
I extend my congratulations to the nominees and thank them, on behalf of IFT, for their commitment to service. Information about their expertise and experience is included with the ballot you will see when you access the voting site in May.
We are excited to welcome our newly elected leaders at the Annual Meeting + Food Expo® in July. Another expected highlight of the program is the keynote by Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker columnist and author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, in which he analyzes intuition and how it can be used to improve instincts for good decision-making. I look forward to seeing him, and you, in New Orleans.
by HERBERT STONE
IFT President, 2004–05
President, Tragon Corp.
Redwood City, Calif.