Committee Balance and Voting Requirements
How Voting Works in the ASTM Process
The consensus process prepares an ASTM International standard to be the best for its purpose: its use in the marketplace. Part of that process is voting.
ASTM voting contains certain requirements — committee balance, non-official and official votes, voting interest — that can be a little confusing to the uninitiated. What are these requirements and how do they impact your vote and ultimately the resulting standard?
Your vote may be a negative. When it is, that negative vote will always stop a ballot item from moving forward regardless of voting classification, official or non-official vote, or balance requirements. That’s why “the single most powerful opportunity in ASTM is the negative vote,” says Robert Morgan, a director in ASTM International’s Technical Committee Operations division.
The Regulations Governing ASTM Technical Committees require voting balance in a committee and a subcommittee. That balance comes through official and non-official votes.
The ASTM consensus process and its purpose of producing the most useful standard possible calls for representatives of small firms or consultancies to have the same vote as a large corporation. Small- and medium-sized enterprises have an equal footing with multinational corporate giants with numerous representatives on a subcommittee or committee. This collective expertise should lead to more technical proficiency in a standard, but it must not lead to results that favor a certain company’s process or product.
The balance begins by classifying members as producers, users, consumers and general interest — that is, their voting interest — on ASTM committees that develop standards for materials, products, systems or services that are offered for sale. Producers may not outnumber the rest of user, consumer and general interest members of a subcommittee, and producers can have only 50 percent or less of the vote. Mathematically, where V is vote: PV <= UV + GIV + CV.
In voting, a producer with several members on the same subcommittee or committee collectively has one vote, or one official vote, as the terminology goes. As the Regulations state, “6.1.1 official vote, n — in a committee or subcommittee, one cast by a voting member on a ballot or motion, and that is used for calculating the numerical voting requirements of these regulations.” The official voting member has the vote that is tallied in another consensus-ensuring step of minimum ballot returns (two thirds affirmative on a subcommittee ballot and 90 percent affirmative on a main committee ballot) to go forward.
This balance requirement can result in technical committees or subcommittees where there are producer voting wait lists. These members do vote and do participate, but do not have their votes counted in ballot tallies. Be sure to return your ballots because three unreturned ballots can lead to an inactive classification and the re-assignment of a vote.
Voter status also applies to determining whether a negative vote is ruled persuasive or not related. Only official voters may participate in the handling of negative votes. The purpose again is keeping a multiple-member group from dominating the vote.
As an aside, your vote on committee administrative matters, including electing officers and amending bylaws, is a one person, one vote situation.
If you’d like more information, ASTM holds training sessions on “Balloting and Handling Negative Votes,” and the virtual officers training workshop will cover this and other topics. Your committee’s staff manager can also answer questions that you may have.
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This article appears in the issue of Standardization News.