March 01, 2011


 HOD voting results will remain closed

By Malinda Larkin 
Posted Feb. 18, 2011 

A resolution calling for open balloting in the AVMA House of Delegates received extensive debate before failing by a vote of nearly 70 percent.

The discussions and vote on Resolution 3, submitted by the Arizona VMA, took place during the HOD regular winter session Jan. 7-8 in Chicago.  

The state association's resolution directed the House Advisory Committee to change the voting procedures in the HOD Manual. If the resolution had been approved, all main motions and elections would have been by open electronic ballot. Plus, the results of these votes would have been posted on the AVMA website for the membership to view. Currently, only the vote tally is revealed at the meeting, not how each delegate voted. Individual votes are considered confidential.

The day before the meeting, the HAC considered the resolution and voted to recommend disapproval. HAC chair Dr. Daniel E. Lafontaine said the committee had more than one reason for doing so. 

Dr. C. Jeffrey Brown, Arizona delegate, speaks
during the HOD regular winter session in favor
of his state VMA's resolution that called for open

The AVMA Bylaws charge the HOD with "establishing policy and providing direction for matters relating to veterinary medicine." Dr. Lafontaine said delegates are responsible for voting according to what is in the best interest of the profession, while being informed of the needs of their constituents.

The HAC thought with open balloting, delegates would be subject to pressure to vote certain ways by other delegates and by outside groups, Dr. Lafontaine said, rather than voting for what is, in the delegate's opinion, best for the veterinary profession.

He pointed out that the HAC also was concerned about unintended consequences of the change in voting procedures.

"While the intent of the resolution is to share delegates' votes with AVMA members, it is very plausible that, in this information age, the public-at-large may access this information, and some may use it against individual delegates and the profession," Dr. Lafontaine said.

At the HOD meeting, Dr. C. Jeffrey Brown, Arizona delegate, explained on the floor that his organization had submitted the resolution as a way of making the AVMA more transparent.

"We have noticed over the last few years there has become something of a perceived disconnect between our Association and our members. We felt that we have to quit looking at this situation as 'us' and 'them.' We are them. They are us. We feel we should open this up for them to see how we vote and, therefore, we need to be accountable for how we vote.

"You'll hear this will politicize the process more. We disagree. It's politicized as is. (Open balloting) will make it less so, because people will know how you vote. ... There's going to be concerns, and they're justified, from groups in our organization that if their name gets out in public, it will be a risk to them. We think it's a small risk. If people want this information, they'll get it anyway."

Five other delegates spoke on the floor of the House regarding the resolution—three against it, one for it, and one wanting to amend it so that elections would not be subject to an open ballot, a motion that failed.

Delegates then took a vote. The final tally was 69.5 percent against the resolution.