By Paula Solis
Baylor Alumni Association members around the globe can now vote without having to be present after amendments to BAA bylaws were made Saturday that allow for electronic, mail and proxy voting.
“This is a good idea to expand the number of members that can vote,” said BAA President George Cowden III before the decision was put to a vote during the meeting at the Paul W. Powell Chapel in Truett Seminary on Baylor’s campus.
“I feel like at the last vote that we were not in a position to include obviously tens of thousands or maybe just ten thousand voters and I regretted that because I wanted to hear more from the members on the subject being proposed,” Cowden said. “This, I think, addresses that.”
Article III of the BAA bylaws was amended in Section 5 and 6. Section 5 previously called “Quorum” is now called “Quorum and Voting,” and allows that a member vote on any matter can be conducted in person, by mail, by facsimile transmission, electronic message, by a proxy or any combination of those options. Section 6, which previously required a member be present to vote, was eliminated.
The terminology in Article XVII that also required member presence during voting was omitted to allow for the changes in Article III to take effect.
Before the vote, members discussed their concerns with the possibility of electronic voting and what it could mean in regards to security. BAA member Mitchell Wren said the terminology “electronic message,” was too vague and could include text messages or email, which Wren said are not protected forms of voting.
Cad Wooten, the chief operating officer, said the BAA has considered for sometime, even before the Sept. 7 meeting to vote for a transition, the possibility of electronic voting and has taken measures to safeguard against voting violations.
“We did some research and we actually got in touch with a company that provides online voting,” Wooten said. “If the case happened where we had a vote that was electronic we would probably hire this vendor or another vendor that has a very strict set of guidelines.”
Wooten said voters would use unique identification numbers and the votes would be audited to allow for only one vote per member.
After the vote, members discussed what electronic voting could mean in terms of addressing the September vote that did not allow the BAA and the Baylor Alumni Network to merge, which consequently led to the official termination of the BAA license to use the Baylor name. Several members were hopeful that a new vote could take place and would change the relationship between Baylor and the BAA, however with the 90-day phase of the Baylor name by the BAA ending Sunday, a new vote is not a probable option, Cowden said.
Lyndon Olson, BAA member and a 1976 Baylor graduate, said after the meeting that the BAA, new electronic voting or not, has hard times ahead.
“There are several regents that don’t like this association,” Olson said. “They have essentially taken away our staff, our people and are taking away the right of speech by a 150-year-oldalumni association. To abolish this organization because they don’t want anybody to speak that they can’t control is fundamentally and constitutionally wrong in a democratic institution like Baylor.”
The BAA will continue to function with “Baylor” in their name and as a separate entity from the university and the decision to dissolve is one that only the BAA can make, not the university, Cowden said.