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The New e-Ballot

by Bode Hennegan

In the January issue of SN, Staff Manager Bode Hennegan described the electronic submittal of ASTM ballot items, which is an important step towards electronic balloting and that will soon be available to your committee. Read on for the inside information.

In the fall of 2000, ASTM began providing electronic copies of standards to our members to assist them in developing revisions and to facilitate the electronic submission of ballot items. Now the introduction of e-balloting will allow a member to access only the information on a ballot that is of interest and reduce unnecessary printing and postage costs. During the ballot period, ASTM members will be able to access the information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This will be a significant benefit to our international members who will no longer be at the mercy of the postal system.

This is a very exciting change for ASTM and many of you have questions about how the system will work. This article provides you with an overview of the system.

How Am I Notified That an e-Ballot Has Been Issued?

When an e-ballot is issued, you will receive an e-mail informing you of the open and close dates and the URL to access the ballot. If you do not have an e-mail address registered at ASTM, you will receive a hard copy letter containing the same information. The hard copy letter is generated approximately one week prior to the ballot issue so that it reaches non-e-mail members at approximately the same time as the e-mail message reaches the others.

Where Is the e-Ballot Located?

The e-ballot notification will direct you to the committee Web page. From there you are instructed to enter the “Members Only” section. The process is the same as if you were accessing your minutes or the committee roster—enter your member number and the password. Once inside the “Members Only” section you will see a link to any open ballots. (Please note that if there are no open ballots, there will not be a link.)

Each ballot is identified using the naming convention that you are accustomed to; for example, F34 (01-01) is the first main ballot of the main committee F34 in the year 2001.

When you click on the link to the ballot you are brought to a page that resembles the informational ballot that is mailed with your hard copy ballots. The ballot will automatically populate itself with your name and committee information.

How Do I Access the Ballot Items?

It was very important to ASTM when designing the ballot to allow members to access only those ballot items that are of interest to them. The system allows a person to open ballot items individually or to download the entire document. Individual documents may be printed. If you would like to review all of the items from a ballot, you can download the EXE file onto your computer. This will allow you to take the information to read at a later time. (I understand from many of you that airplane flights are the perfect place for ballot-reading.)

The ballot items are in PDF files that are read using Adobe Acrobat. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat, it can be downloaded from the Web free of charge.

How Do I Cast My Vote?

To cast your vote on an item, click on the appropriate button on the right side of the ballot. If you choose to vote negative or affirmative with comment, or abstain with comment, a text box will automatically pop up for you to provide your written statement. You can either type directly into the box or you can copy text from another file. (Instructions are provided in the frequently asked questions section of the ballot.)

If you do not provide a written statement for an item for which you have voted negative, affirmative with comment, or abstain with comment, the system will not allow you to submit your ballot. A warning will appear that asks you to either add your written statement or to change your vote.

What Happens If I Complete a Portion of the Ballot and Want to Return at a Later Time?

As of April 2001, you will be able to complete a portion of the ballot and then save the information. When you log back into the Members Only section of the Web site the system will be able to retrieve your ballot where you left off. This feature is especially important for large ballots that may take a number of sittings to complete.

When you have completed the ballot, you are instructed to hit the “submit” button. This sends the information to ASTM. Your ballot is not counted until the Submit button is pressed.

Can I Get a Record of How I Voted?

When you hit the Submit button, you will receive a summary of how you voted on each item. Your written statements for negative, affirmative with comment, or abstain with comment will be included. You are able to print this by hitting the Print button on your Web browser.

What If I Do Not Have Internet Access?

For those members who do not have Internet access, ASTM will be able to provide a hard copy of the ballot documentation. Please contact ASTM immediately upon receiving notification of a ballot and we will promptly mail you a hard copy of the ballot documentation. ASTM will maintain a list of members who do not have access and will automatically send out a hard copy of future ballots.

How Long Will the Ballot Remain on the Web Site?

The ballot will appear on the Web until the close date. The only exception will be if a ballot has not reached the 60 percent return required for it to be valid. If this is the case, the ballot will remain posted until a 60 percent return is obtained.

The system has been designed to automatically send reminders to members who have not returned their ballots. These reminders will be sent out two weeks prior to the closing date of the ballot. If there is a problem with reaching the 60 percent return, additional reminders will be sent.

How Will Negatives and Comments Be Distributed?

When a ballot is submitted, it is transmitted to ASTM along with the associated comments and negatives. For the time being, ASTM will handle the distribution of the negatives, comments, and closing reports the same way that we always have, in hard copy format. We are currently expanding the system to allow the electronic distribution of the information. We expect this to be completed by the end of 2001. Once implemented, this will allow subcommittee chairmen and technical contacts to receive the information much more quickly.

Importance of e-Mail Addresses

It is critical that you notify ASTM of your e-mail address so that we can efficiently notify you of the issuance of an e-ballot. This may be done by going to the Members Only “Rosters” area of your committee Web site (accessed via www.astm.org) where you may correct your membership information online. Alternatively, e-mail corrections along with your member number to Headquarters, or phone ASTM Customer Service at 610/832-9585 or fax at 610/832-9555.

Conclusion

At the spring Committee Weeks, there will be a workshop Wednesday at noon on electronic balloting. If you will be attending one of these Committee Weeks, you are encouraged to attend the workshop. The location will be announced in the registration area.

We are very interested in receiving your feedback on the online balloting process so that we can improve the system and service to the membership. Please send your comments to Bode Hennegan (phone: 610/832-9740; fax: 610/834-3675). //

Copyright 2001, ASTM

Bode Hennegan is a manager in the Technical Committee Operations Division.