Newspaper logo  
  The BTU's Computer Voting Controversy


The BTU’s Computer Voting Controversy

by William Weiss

The Baltimore Teachers Union (BTU) used an electronic touch-screen system for its biannual officer elections on May 19. Only the incumbent slate of candidates, which won in a landslide, was listed on the first screen, making it possible to vote for that ticket without seeing a list of alternatives to consider. In protest, union members have been holding weekly pickets at BTU headquarters. BTU’s parent union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), is currently investigating the matter.

The BTU hired Elections USA, Inc. of Quakertown, PA, to design its electronic voting system. While touch-screen systems are speedily replacing paper punch-card ballots nationwide and will be used in Maryland in the November elections, they remain fiercely controversial. The BTU elections have proven to be no exception.

“The first screen [of the electronic ballot] was like a billboard saying ‘Vote Here’ for the incumbent,” said Myles Hoenig, a Southwestern High School teacher.

The BTU refused “under the advice of counsel” to release a copy of the screen design to the Report “until the completion of the AFT’s investigation,” according to BTU spokesperson Carla Tyler.

Several BTU members confirmed that voters had to press a button at the bottom corner of the screen to view the list of challengers. When the votes were processed, BTU president Marietta English had won with nearly three times as many votes as her nearest challenger.

Tyler defended the screen design. “The night before [the election], all of the candidates were invited here to review the machine, to go through the voting process.... At that time, no one mentioned any concerns.”

Clarisse Herbert Brown, one of English’s three challengers for the BTU presidency, gave a different account of the meeting. “Though we did talk with [Elections USA] the night before the election,” Brown said, “we didn’t get a chance to see the screen.”

Tyler said if Brown and others had raised their objections at the meeting, “we could have at least addressed their concerns.”

Asked if it would have been technically possible to change the screen the night before the election, Tyler replied, “I won’t say it would have been possible, but it would certainly have been up for discussion.”

Tyler said the other candidates’ slates did not appear on the first screen because they were “incomplete,” missing candidates in several slots. Although Tyler claimed the BTU Election Committee applied this same standard in the 2002 election, English’s slate in that contest, when she ran as a challenger, was featured on the first screen even though it was incomplete, lacking candidates for five of the 21 slots.

Tyler said the English administration’s Election Committee sent every union member the policies and procedures governing this year’s election by certified mail on April 20. The slate registration due date was April 26.

Connie Goodly, co-chair of the Elections Committee, offered no explanation as to why the registration deadline so nearly followed the rules publication. Brown claimed she did not receive the registration rules mailing until after the due date had passed, and charged that the delay was “due to interoffice politics.”

Tyler confirmed the Committee determined election policies and procedures, including ballot design, in “a closed meeting.” Brown and other teachers expressed concerns about the Committee’s independence, pointing out that the English-headed Executive Board, by appointing the Committee, indirectly managed an election in which some of its members were candidates.

This was within the legal framework of the BTU constitution, which gives the Executive Board the authority to establish all rules and regulations for the conduct of elections. Only the Executive Board can change the BTU constitution.

To protest the 2004 elections, Clarisse Brown, former BTU president Irene Dandridge, and other teachers picket weekly outside the BTU office at 5800 Metro Drive. They have successfully lobbied the AFT to launch an investigation into the election.

Protesters said they also hope to draw attention to the union leadership’s fiscal secrecy. The BTU does not publicly disclose how it spends the budget it generates from member dues, which last year totaled nearly $4 million. According to Tyler, union members have access to the BTU Agency Fee Report, which forecasts fiscal expenditures. However, that report details only estimated, not actual, expenses.

Hoenig, a Green Party candidate for the 14th district City Council seat, said the 15 percent BTU member turnout in May’s election shows the union’s electoral process needs reform. “We ought to read into the low turnout a general disconnect of the people who should be most involved,” said Hoenig.

He stressed that the issue goes beyond winners and losers. “My purpose is to see a fair election, whether it results in an English victory or not,” he said. “Regardless of the outcome, I want to see the bulk of our teachers involved in a fair process.”

Copyright © 2004 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on August 3, 2004.
Local Stories, Events
Health Care & Environment

08.16 Planting the Seeds for Dramatic Changes in Agriculture [6:19 video]

08.16 Microplastics ‘significantly contaminating the air’, scientists warn

08.15 The rain in Spain: how an ancient Arabic technique saves Alicante from floods

08.15 40% of US honeybee colonies disappeared last year. This is what the world would look like without any bees at all.

08.15 Fracking Boom in US and Canada Largely to Blame for 'Massive' Rise of Global Methane Levels: Study [Will there be mass-murder criminal charges? With Trump-appointed judges allow criminal or civil-cases be fairly adjudicated?]

08.14 “Kochland” Examines the Koch Brothers’ Early, Crucial Role in Climate-Change Denial [For their gravestones, what best summarizes the vast death of life across the globe these two brothers have wrought?]

08.14 GM, VW Say They Won’t Build Hybrids Or Plug-in Hybrids, Only Battery Electric Cars

08.14 eHang Wants To Start An eVTOL Service In Guangzhou Soon [7:31 video]

08.14 Tesla Model 3 = 3rd Best Selling Vehicle In The Netherlands In July

08.14 China Is Leading The World To An Electric Future: Four Takeaways From My Recent Visit

08.14 India Approves Subsidy For 5,595 Electric Buses Across 64 Cities

08.14 The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us

08.14 North Pole: multiple lightning strikes follow record-low sea ice levels

08.13 Tree-damaging pests pose ‘devastating’ threat to 40% of US forests

08.13 Playing Role of Pesticide 'Cheerleader,' EPA Rebukes Calif. With Ban on Warning Labels for Roundup

08.13 Regenerative Agriculture Is Key for a Sustainable Climate and Food System

08.12 Death toll from Indian floods reaches 147, thousands evacuated

08.12 Mexico City joins worldwide movement to ban single-use plastic

08.12 Australia will ban export of recyclable waste 'as soon as practicable', PM vows

08.12 Governments could become indifferent to climate disaster victims, expert warns [Especially those with sociopathic rulers, like Trump and Bolsonaro]

News Media Matters

08.15 Why Bernie Sanders Is Absolutely Correct About the Washington Post—and Corporate Media Overall [7:51 video]

08.11 Guess who said it: Tucker Carlson or a far-right shooter [How have Fox News and similar excretory news sources become such profitable engines of hate? They foment fear of people different than ‘you’ as the problem, and sell evisceration of ‘them’ as the solution. It’s all neatly packaged to make ‘you’ feel safer.]

08.09 'What Oligarchy Looks Like': Sanders Leads 140 Lawmakers in Condemning Trump Plan to Rip Food Stamps From 3 Million Americans [Why isn't this story covered in corporate media?]

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

08.16 As Warren and Sanders Swiftly Condemned Israel for Barring Congresswomen, Pelosi and Biden Hesitated [Corporate-Democrats caught wrong-footed again]

08.16 Steve King’s Views on Rape Are Inseparable From His Racism

08.16 Elizabeth Warren Sells Populism to Professionals

08.16 'Bees, not refugees': the environmentalist roots of anti-immigrant bigotry

08.15 American Taxpayers Forced to Pay For Don Jr.’s Sheep Hunting Vacation to Canada [Visit webpage to see the latest stone sheep he's 'proudly' killed.]

08.15 American unions have been decimated. No wonder inequality is skyrocking

08.15 Now Earning 278 Times More Than Average Worker, New Study Shows CEO Pay Has Grown More Than 1,000% Since 1978

08.14 To Stave Off 'Climate Disaster,' 29 States and Major Cities Sue Trump EPA Over 'Dirty Power' Rule

08.14 Indigenous and Green Groups Fighting Against Pipeline Urge 2020 Democrats to Take 'NoKXL Pledge'

Justice Matters

08.16 The FBI could fight far-right violence if they wanted to – but they don't

08.15 Fracking Boom in US and Canada Largely to Blame for 'Massive' Rise of Global Methane Levels: Study [Will there be mass-murder criminal charges? With Trump-appointed judges allow criminal or civil-cases be fairly adjudicated?]

08.09 Warning of 'Severe' Harm to Millions of People, UN Human Rights Chief Condemns Trump Embargo Against Venezuela

High Crimes vs. Human Rights

08.10 Turkey to annex northern Syria with US blessing [This unfairly favors Turkey—a dubious Russia-friendly ally—by allowing it to steal the Kurdish homeland it will expand and quicken the slow-motion genocide against the Kurdish people. What logic supports doing this to America's best ally for the last 16 years? How much was Trump bribed to support this?]

Economics & Corrupt Capitalism

08.15 Military Spending: Ignoring the $738 Billion Elephant in the Room

08.10 Why is it so difficult to stop your pension money making the climate crisis worse?

08.10 Neoliberalism Has Met Its Match in China

International & Futurism

08.15 US moves to block release of Iranian vessel in Gibraltar

08.13 The Museum Is the Refugee’s Home [Think about it: refugees—excluding bad criminal types—are naturally the best new citizens because they'll fight like hell for a better life.]

08.13 Hong Kong protests: airport suspends flights for second day [0:45 video]

08.11 Trump's influence is spreading like a virus

08.11 The very idea of a united kingdom is being torn apart by toxic nationalism

This site Web

Public Service Ads: