Whether to Permit Absentee Voting

Q. We're thinking about changing how we address absentee and/or proxy voting rights in our bylaws. How do other congregations handle absentee and proxy voting policies?

A. Some congregations permit absentee voting, considering it an appropriate way to involve people who may be incapacitated or unavoidably away. Others believe those who vote need to be present to hear the discussion on an issue.

Northwest Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church, Atlanta, GA (200), permits absentee ballots. They need to be sealed, have the member's name on the envelope, and be delivered to the secretary at least three days prior to the congregational meeting, says Jacalyn Baker, former board member. Those who vote absentee are also included as part of the quorum needed at that meeting.

First Unitarian of Louisville, KY (270), does not permit absentee voting except by those with physical infirmities, says member Jo Ann Dale. The president and secretary of the board must attest to the infirmity. A person holding a proxy may only vote that proxy on matters named in the call of the meeting. No individual may vote more than one proxy at any meeting.

The UU Fellowship of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, CA (271), does not permit proxies. "We felt it was in the board's best interest to encourage people to come to the meetings, listen and ask questions," said Mary Wolfe, membership chair.

John Levine of First Unitarian Society of Ithaca, NY (556), cautions, "If your church is incorporated as a religious or nonprofit corporation, check to see what your state law says about voting rules. I discovered that here in New York, state law requires that in incorporated UU churches all votes must be in person."

For more information contact interconnections@uua.org.

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