About the AMSAT 2019 Director Election

The AMSAT 2019 director election will close voting on September 15. If you haven’t read it, here are the candidates I’ve endorsed.

I wanted to document why I got involved, and what I feel were anomalies in the election procedure.

As I write this, there are a few days left in the election. According to the ElectionBuddy instructions if you haven’t voted, and haven’t received or can’t find your ballot, the election administrator, [email protected], should be able to give you a key and online voting instructions, or direct you to someone at ElectionBuddy who can help. Of course I can’t guarantee that he’ll want to.

I have been supporting the Phase 4 Ground Station project for several years. Michelle Thompson W5NYV, the project lead, had confided that she found it difficult to work with AMSAT management. This eventually became so serious that we decided to create Open Research Institute as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization to support the Ground Station project and other Open Source space projects outside of AMSAT. We don’t particularly want to have this done in a separate organization from AMSAT, we just don’t feel there is any alternative at this time.

We had other worries about AMSAT leadership. There are conduct issues. I know many brilliant people who made some of AMSAT’s greatest projects, and have curtailed their work for the organization if they haven’t quit completely. AMSAT can’t support itself from membership fees. And we’d like changes in the technical direction.

So, when five candidates formed a slate to run for the AMSAT board, epsousing similar ideas to mine, I decided to write a public letter in support of their candidacy and to financially support their campaign mailing. I had previously written a similar letter to endorse ARRL board candidates during the “transparency vs. confidentiality” dispute within ARRL. 4 of the 5 candidates I endorsed won the ARRL election, and that was the end of the “confidentiality” issue.

The slate of AMSAT candidates adopted my new letter as part of their campaign material and mailed it to the AMSAT membership. That’s why you’ve received a postal letter from me, although it was mailed by the candidates.

At least one of that slate will win, simply because of the number of candidates.

AMSAT’s bylaws provide these rules regarding the election. I feel they’ve been violated, and that whoever wins, the election was run ineptly and not in compliance with AMSAT’s own rules.

Section 3: Voting shall be conducted by secret ballot in a fair and democratic manner. The Secretary shall prepare written ballots listing all candidates found to be duly nominated and eligible for election. Such ballots shall be mailed to all Members or, at the Secretary’s discretion, included in a publication of the corporation mailed to all Members, in either event such mailing to take on or before July 15 of each year. Duly nominated and eligible candidates shall be afforded equal opportunity to circulate statements of their qualifications and positions to the Members through the corporation’s publications and shall have use of the corporation’s mailing lists for election-related purposes at no cost to the corporation.

AMSAT made no plans to allow members to publish their platforms in the organization’s publications, as is called for in its own bylaws, and there has been no such publication. The ballot mailing included no information on the candidates. Severely-limited candidates statements, constrained to 350 words and prohibiting URLs and criticism of individual AMSAT officers, were carried on the AMSAT.org web site, but I received complaints from AMSAT members that they did not know of this, that the link was initially in too small a font to stand out, and that even after the link text was enlarged many members never found the candidate’s statements on the web site before they voted.

AMSAT also made no plans to provide mailing lists to the candidates to enable them to perform their own campaigning. They had to be forced, with a letter from a candidate instructing them on their own bylaws, which they seemed to be ignorant of.

The candidate statement guidelines and a set of radically different election rules than in the past were communicated to the candidates on July 3, 2019, at the start of a holiday weekend shortly before the election opened. Thus, the candidates were not given adequate time to prepare, and were not able to get their mailings out to members before the ballots arrived.

I feel that all of this was prejudicial to anyone but the incumbents, who are frequently heard in AMSAT’s publications and online services. The incumbents must also feel this way, since they haven’t bothered to create a mailing of their own.

I don’t know if any of this is due to malice, or simply ineptitude. AMSAT has rarely had a contested election at all, indeed it’s been difficult to find people to fill the necessary offices.

But the election has been somewhat contaminated by AMSAT’s gaffes in operating it. This applies whoever wins.

Whatever happens, the candidates, and I, will be back next year for the next AMSAT election. And we’ll demand better processes, leading up to the election.

Bruce Perens K6BP