So, my millennial techno savvy friends who don’t write checks, who use Venmo, order groceries online and Prime every purchase. You are in charge of the SBC Annual Meeting. How would you manage voting?
There are some rules in place:
- Only registered messengers may vote.
- Votes may be made only by those present in the hall. No proxy voting allowed.
This years SBCAM had 15,726 registered messengers, largest in a quarter century. Each was given a bundle of paper ballots when they registered. A number of votes were made by marking ballots. So far, no one has complained about the accuracy of the votes.
Here’s how the low tech SBC does voting these days.
- A vote is announced that will be taken by the casting of ballots.
- The SBC Registration Secretary, Don Currance, gives instructions on how messengers may vote.
- Messengers mark their paper ballots according to their wishes.
- Members of the Tellers Committee pick ballots up in KFC-type of paper buckets, sans the Colonel’s picture
- Buckets are carted to a counting room.
- Pairs of tellers count stacks by hand. They must agree on the number.
- The numbers are totalled and reported out.
Baptist Press had a photo spread about the ballots. You can view that here.
The SBCAM used to employ machinery, optical scanners, punch card scanners but did away with that. We moved from centuries old technology (punch cards have been around for a long time) to millenia old technology – count ’em by hand, one by one.
While I’m not clear on why we moved from mechanical counting to hand counting (perhaps cost) I’m not concerned about making an accurate and timely count. Currance and his crew did a splendid job. Everything was in the open and there is little chance of manipulation of the results.
But, you, millennial friend may suggest another way as a thought exercise. I’ve read your comments that drip with contempt over the low tech SBC. So…
Why not vote by smart phone? The results would be instantaneous. No paper ballots to keep up with.
Problems: Not everyone has a phone. Imagine your grandparents having to manage a phone voting system in rapid manner. I can hear it now,
“Point of order, Mr. President!”
“Microphone number 8a, what is your point of order?”
“I’m an idiot and don’t know how to do this.”
“Microphone 8a your point of order is half correct but is not well taken. We vote.”
Problem: Rules specify that messengers must be present in the hall to vote. Is GPS so accurate that a guy standing one foot inside the door may vote but one foot out is blocked from voting? Nope.
Problem: No one sees votes being counted. You can see two people thumbing through and separating a stack of ballots. You just get a number if voting is by phone. And, aren’t these devices made in China? Instant conspiracy theories.
How about the old punch cards? Ever hear of hanging chads? SBC messengers are notoriously inept.
The SBCAM is the world’s largest democratic assembly. It’s messy. It’s open to criticism for backwards technology. We count votes in 2021 in essentially the same way we did in 1921, or 1845 (although a raised hand might have been sufficient back then).
What if the SBCAM balloons to 20,000 or 30,000 or more messengers? We’ve done those numbers before, but not with a hand count. Some machine counting method may be in our future. A few years ago the Executive Committee was approved to study voting by electronic device. I’ve not heard if this was done or not.
But for now, high praise to Don Currence and all of the tellers. They all volunteer for this work. No one gets paid. Great job!