During the September membership meetings, Seafarers will be presented with actions by the union’s executive board aimed at facilitating access to absentee ballots for this year’s SIU election. The board approved these modifications in light of the global COVID- 19 pandemic. The SIU Constitution provides that eligible members can vote by absentee ballot if they are on a vessel or in a hospital during the voting period. For this election, the board proposes that anyone desiring to vote by absentee ballot be allowed to do so. While the constitution specifies that absentee-ballot requests should be made by registered or certified mail, for this election, the board proposes that such requests may be sent by regular mail (which wouldn’t require members to leave their homes to go to a post office). If, however, any member sends a request for an absentee ballot by regular mail, that member is asked to wait five or more days to allow the request to be delivered, and then call the office of SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel to verify the request has been received.
Additionally, the constitution specifies that absentee ballot requests must be received at headquarters by 12 p.m. on Nov. 10 of the election year. Again because of the pandemic, and in an effort to enable full participation in this election, the board has proposed extending this deadline to 12 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2020 (meaning all absentee ballot requests would need to be received at headquarters by this new deadline date).
The next item that the board has acted upon involves in-person voting hours. The constitution provides that voting at the hiring halls shall take place between 9 a.m. and noon, Mondays through Saturdays during the voting period. For this election, due to social distancing restrictions and limits on the number of people who can be present at a hiring hall any one time, the board proposes extending the in-person voting hours until 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. This would allow members to come in and vote between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
The last issue undertaken by the SIU Executive Board pertaining to this election was a proposal to allow ballots to be brought by a union representative to a vessel that is in a U.S. port and that is within a 50-mile radius of a hiring hall or to other locations within the same radius where a ship’s crew might be congregating. If a vessel is beyond the 50- mile radius, reasonable efforts will be made to try to deliver ballots; but, this would depend on the actual distance and the availability of union representatives. (Also, if a vessel is one that the port routinely services and is beyond the 50-mile radius, ballots can be brought to that vessel during the routine servicing.) Due to restriction-to-ship issues, the board understood that it might be difficult for members desiring to vote in person to leave a vessel and come to a hiring hall. This proposed solution would help that situation. When ballots are brought to a vessel, members will have the opportunity to vote and arrangements will be made for them to do so in a secret fashion.
All of these actions were carried out to help counter the effects of this pandemic and to try to ensure full membership participation in the SIU election. Again, they will be presented to the membership during the September meetings.
Step-by-step instructions for requesting and submitting an absentee ballot will be posted on the SIU website and published in next month’s LOG.