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Bar leaders resist proposal to return to paper ballots

VIRGINIA BEACH – On the eve of a potential showdown over the use of modern technology in Virginia State Bar presidential elections, a panel of bar leaders declared their unanimous opposition to a proposal to return to paper ballots.

A Wednesday meeting of the VSB Executive Committee briefly turned into a strategy session for defeat of an initiative advanced by former VSB executive director Thomas A. Edmonds.

Edmonds claims too many Virginia lawyers missed the chance to vote in last fall’s election for VSB president-elect because of the complexities of the bar’s new online voting procedure. Some lawyers said they did not see email communications about the vote, Edmonds said.

Edmonds – a candidate in that election – lost to Michael W. Robinson by 449 votes, about 10 percent of the votes cast.

Edmonds has proposed a VSB bylaw change to eliminate online elections and return to paper ballots. The change would cost an estimated $20,000 for each contested vote for president-elect, according to VSB officials.

A study committee recommended the bar continue with online voting, which saves money and eliminates the extra work load for VSB staffers.

“Clearly, the majority of people surveyed want to continue with digital balloting,” said Sharon D. Nelson, the immediate past VSB president, who chaired the study committee.

Nelson said the response from most voters was: “It was fast. It was easy. Thank you.”

Acknowledging one problem with the 2014 voting, Nelson said that issue has been addressed for future elections. For future presidential contests, VSB emails will direct lawyers to the online ballot webpage, even if the bar members miss the initial email from the outside vendor.

“It’s not going to be hard,” she said Wednesday, although she said the extra access would cost an additional $3,000.

The VSB Executive Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend that the Bar Council reject the Edmonds proposal for returning to paper ballots when it considers the issue Thursday morning.

 

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