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Use of Proxies: An ASTM Update

by Pat Piccariello

There’s been a change in the proxy form for casting votes in ASTM standards activities. Pat Picariello explains the rationale for the change and how to use the new proxy form.

A basic tenet of the ASTM process is the opportunity for all interested parties to participate in the standards development activity of their choice. Active participation in the standards development process can take place in many ways —authoring a revision to a standard, participating on a task group via e-mail or telephone, voting on a letter ballot, or participating in discussions and voting on actions at a meeting. Common to all of these modes is that they do not require your presence at a meeting of the committee. At this point, you may be thinking, “Wow, I’m less than 100 words into this piece and I’m already confused. How can I vote at a meeting if I can’t be there?” The answer to this question is simple (and doesn’t involve any specialized metaphysical power on your part). This type of participation is possible through the use of the proxy.

What Is a Proxy?
A proxy is defined as written authorization given by one person to another so that the second person can act on behalf of the first. In the specific context of an ASTM meeting, proxies allow voting members of committees or subcommittees to assign their votes to others, should they be unable to attend the meeting. Consequently, voting participation is ensured even if actual attendance is not.

Why Does ASTM Allow Proxies?
The conduct of business that applies to an ASTM meeting is governed by the bylaws of the committee in question, the
Regulations Governing ASTM Technical Committees, and Robert’s Rules of Order. Embedded in the basic principles of Robert’s Rules is the opportunity for proxies to be assigned. Additionally, as participation is crucial to the due process environment that is the hallmark of the ASTM consensus process, every opportunity available will be employed to help guarantee this participation. ASTM is aware that the current business climate is quite demanding and actual attendance at every committee meeting is not always possible. In situations such as these, the opportunity to vote via proxy is intended as a convenience to the ASTM membership. It is not intended to facilitate the solicitation of absentee votes to support a particular position. Consequently, the rules governing the assignment and execution of proxies are essential for the proper utilization of this process.

Clarification of ASTM’s Proxy Language
ASTM’s guidance on the use of proxies is found in Section 9.5 of the
Regulations Governing ASTM Technical Committees. At the March 2000 meeting of ASTM’s Committee on Technical Committee Operations (COTCO), a revision to Section 9.5 was announced. Initiated at the direction of ASTM legal counsel, this revision clarifies the original intent of the existing section and is to be immediately implemented by all ASTM technical committees. This revision was further supported by the ASTM Board of Directors at the April 2000 meeting and the complete text of the new section appears in the sidebar below for your information.

What About the Proxy Form?
A companion item to the change in the Regulations is a newly standardized
proxy form. Please note that this form is to replace all existing proxy forms and is to be used in all cases that require the issuance of a proxy. Failure to use this specific form when assigning a proxy will invalidate the proxy and prevent the vote from being counted. The form offers several unique features that will aid absentee members in the assignment of their votes. The most significant of these is the ability to specify the exact direction that the holder of the proxy must follow when casting the absentee member’s vote. In the “Specific Issue/Matter” section, voting members may indicate precise instructions regarding how their votes are to be cast. If it is the wish of the person assigning the proxy that his/her vote be used in favor of a not persuasive motion on the third negative vote cast on Item 17 of the (00-01) main committee letter ballot, that wish must be carried out. Failure to specifically adhere to the direction provided by the assignor of the proxy will render the proxy vote invalid.

Delivery and Quantity of the Proxy Form
Section 9.5 of the Regulations specifies that the “original” of the signed and duly executed proxy form be submitted prior to the applicable meeting or action. Consequently, only a proxy form bearing an original signature will be valid. Fax, photocopy, or e-mail copies of the proxy form are unacceptable and will be considered invalid.

Additionally, a separate proxy form must be completed for each individual meeting during which the proxy vote is to be cast. Therefore, if you are a voting member of a main committee and five separate subcommittees and you wish to assign a proxy for each meeting, six individual proxy forms must be signed, duly executed, and presented to the respective chairman of each committee or subcommittee prior to the applicable meeting or action. Failure to comply with this requirement will invalidate the proxy.

Why the Clarification of the Proxy Requirements?
In addition to being an integral piece of the participation element of due process, a proxy is also a binding legal document. As such, its assignment and delivery must be protected against any potential for misuse. While many of ASTM’s technical committees have historically followed the spirit of the Regulations in their application of the proxy process, the issue is far too significant to offer any room for misuse. The addition of language clarification in Section 9.5 and the issuance of the new proxy form will further strengthen this process and offer greater protection for those who most rely upon its integrity… the ASTM member. //

Copyright 2000, ASTM

Pat Picariello
is a manager in ASTM Technical Committee

Note: Additions to the section have been marked in color.

PROXIES—As stipulated in its bylaws, a committee may authorize its voting members to delegate, in writing, qualified individuals as proxies in meetings, but no individual shall hold or exercise proxies for more than one member in any committee. The voting member wishing to assign a proxy shall contact the individual to hold the proxy and complete a duly executed proxy form. The original of the signed and duly executed proxy form shall be submitted to the chairman of the committee or subcommittee prior to the applicable meeting or action.