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NOTE: This information is background information on a vote that has already been taken. At the UUAA Annual Meeting on June 2nd, 2019, absentee voting was approved to be added to the bylaws, and proxy voting was not approved and we will continue to NOT support voting by proxy  


Background on why we needed to vote now

Michigan state laws for nonprofit corporations have changed and our bylaws are now out of date on the issue of proxy voting. We must add a bylaw stating either that we do or do not allow voting by proxy.

State law does not require that our bylaws state whether we do or do not allow absentee voting, but while we are considering proxy voting, the Board of Trustees wants to address absentee voting as a possible alternative or as an additional voting option.


Some Definitions

PROXY: The written authorization that allows one eligible voting member (the "proxy giver") to appoint another person (the "proxy holder") to vote on their behalf in their absence.

ABSENTEE BALLOT: A ballot submitted (e.g: hand submitted or by mail) in advance of an election by a voter who is unable to be present at the meeting where the vote will take place.


A Few Facts

Note the definitions above that point out that proxy voting is not the same as absentee voting.

The Michigan Nonprofit Act says

  • Proxies need to be signed and submitted to officers of UUAA before the vote.
  • Can be good for at most 3 years.
  • Can be revoked at any time
  • Can be defined to be a proxy applicable only for a specific meeting or a proxy good for all meetings in a given period of time

UU Congregations vary in their support for proxy and absentee voting. A web search indicates perhaps half of congregations support proxy voting, some under very specific situations and others for any congregational vote. Absentee voting is not uncommon, and again is sometimes allowed only on a narrow set of issues. Many congregations require members to be present at a meeting to cast their vote. The UUA recommends that voters be required to be present at the meeting for a vote to call or dismiss a minister.


Pros and Cons for Proxy and Absentee Voting

PRO: Both proxy voting and absentee voting might lead to broader participation in elections, allowing members who cannot attend a meeting because they are traveling, sick, or mobility-challenged to participate in elections.

CON: Members who do not attend a meeting may miss some of the nuances or added information provided at the meeting.

CON: Both proxy voting and absentee voting could lead to decreased attendance at congregational meetings, which are valued as a place we can gather as a whole community and discuss issues in person.

CON – Absentee: If an issue such as a bylaw change is amended at the meeting, the absentee ballot is discarded. Even if a resolution or bylaw statement is not amended, the in-person discussion could be important to understanding some issues before voting.

CON – Proxy: Allowing another member to vote for you leaves it totally up to your proxy to decide whether to follow your instructions. And if a motion is amended at the meeting, the proxy voter will need to decide how you would have voted with the revisions taken into account.



Next Steps After the Vote

  • If the congregation decides that both proxy and absentee voting will remain disallowed, the bylaw change stating that proxy voting is not allowed will be adopted and UUAA voting procedures will not change.

  • If proxy voting is approved, the Board of Trustees will create a procedure and a form for designating someone as a proxy. Click this link to see an example draft proxy statement.

  • If absentee voting is approved, the Board of Trustees will create a procedure and one or more governing policies for absentee voting. The policies will specify the criteria for deciding what items can be included in an absentee vote.The Board would welcome your input on the specifics of absentee voting.

Typically, congregations allow absentee voting for slates of officers, contested elections and resolutions that are not controversial or have already had a lot of discussion and input from the congregation. If an item needs last minute in-person discussion or is very likely to be amended at the meeting, the Board can choose not to put it on the absentee ballot.

Many congregations do not allow absentee ballots for calling or dismissing a minister.

To preserve anonymity, congregations typically ask that absentee ballots not be signed, but submitted in a signed envelope.



Vote #1 - Proxy Voting

Which of the following bylaw options do you prefer (vote for one):

Option A

IV.6. Proxy Voting

There shall be no member voting by proxy.

Option B

IV.6. Proxy Voting

For a specified congregational meeting, an absent voting member may assign to another voting member the right to vote as a proxy by completing a form provided for this purpose and countersigned by a member of the Board. Only one proxy may be carried by any member. Proxies do not count toward a quorum.


Vote #2 - Absentee Voting

Motion to add to Article IV of the UUAA Bylaws (vote yes or no):

IV.7. Absentee Voting

Members unable to attend a congregational meeting may vote by a signed ballot, submitted to the Board of Trustees in advance of the call to order for the meeting. Absentee ballots may be counted only for items of business that are not revised or amended at the meeting. The Board of Trustees shall have the authority to decide which issues can be included on absentee ballots and to establish the processes for absentee voting. Members voting by absentee ballot do not count toward the quorum for the meeting.