BREAKING: Meridia Electronic Voting Devices Scrapped at General Conference Session

Throughout the 60th General Conference Session, electronic voting devices from Meridia Interactive Solutions, who according to the company's website, works with 95% of Fortune 500 companies, and 100% of the nation’s pharmaceutical companies own a Meridia system, have malfunctioned at every turn, according to General Conference leaders. The technical problems culminated on Sunday, July 5, in the permanent discarding of voting devices in favor of vote by paper cards, and in special cases, secret paper ballot votes.

In January of 2015, General Conference Undersecretary Myron Iseminger touted the new devices in a report by the Adventist News Network, saying the devices would ensure anonymity and would increase efficiency.

I think in many cultures delegates are caught in a difficult spot because, on one hand, we encourage them to prayerfully vote their conscience, but on the other hand, showing respect to their local leader sitting nearby is also very important,” Iseminger said. “We hope that particular pressure will be removed this time.”

On the opening day of the meetings, General Conference vice president Lowell Cooper, who chaired the first business session, gave instructions to delegates from the Worldwide Church on the use of the devices, and took a test vote. Of the 1,800+ registered delegates, only 300 or so votes registered in the first test. Cooper conducted several more tests of the devices throughout the day, each registering far fewer delegates' votes than expected.

On each subsequent day of the General Conference Session, business session chairs undertook sporadic tests of the voting devices with results that became familiar: in each test, chairs determined that the results did not indicate full functionality of devices. On the second day of Session, General Conference Administration announced that the problem was believed to be the unusually high wifi signal in the Alamodome, which had been turned down to facilitate voting. Church leaders also suggested that delegates might have been outside the designated voting area on the floor of the Alamodome, and admonished delegates to vote only from their designated delegate areas.

Meanwhile, rumors began swirling that some delegates might be deliberately not voting in order to force a return to visible votes by paper cards.

A high-placed General Conference official expressed full confidence in the GC technology team and the Meridia system.

Things came to a head on the Sunday afternoon business meeting, after an announcement that votes would again be taken by cards. Delegate after delegate from the North American Division came to microphones during discussion of proposed changes to the Church Manual to request another test of the electronic voting system.

Tara VinCross, Ray Hartwell, and Cheryl Simmons requested retests of the voting devices. At approximately 1:40pm, General Conference president Elder Ted Wilson came to the stage to speak to the issue.

“We intend to try this system once more. It has been our intention that this system would work nicely, Wilson said. He blamed the purported equipment malfunction on the wifi within the dome, though General Conference leaders said that it had been adjusted two days earlier.

“We intend to take one more attempt,” Wilson said. “If the vote is not successful, we will have a recommendation to the body.”

Wilson explained the use of the devices to delegates once more. He noted that buttons 1A and 2B were the only buttons on the device to be used. He told delegates that there was a secret paper ballot system in place as needed, adding that it would be “cumbersome and laborious.” He added his hope that voting cards could be used for most votes. He spoke almost as though the test of the electronic system was a forgone conclusion.

Wilson stated that administration was as frustrated as anyone about the devices, calling it “an unintended and unanticipated problem.”

Wilson asked each delegate who had a voting device to stand and be counted, division-by-division. After that number was tallied, General Counsel Karnik Doukmetzian called for a vote on the devices telling delegates to push the buttons and then release them, and to push them only once.

After the time window closed on the vote-by-device, Wilson announced that steering committee decided the maximum allowable discrepancy between delegates with devices and votes returned was 51 (2%).

There was a discrepancy of several hundred votes, and Elder Wilson moved that the use of electronic devices cease and that votes be taken by voting cards or paper ballots for “very special” votes.

There was no discussion, and the motion quickly carried, meaning the end of the use of the Meridia devices.

A North American Division delegate asked that an electronic vote be taken on a division-by-division basis to find out where the discrepancies might lie. The request was ignored from the front.

Megen de Bruin-Molé from the Trans-European Division made a motion to re-consider the vote on the basis that many points of order had not been considered before the vote. The motion was seconded, put to a vote, and defeated.

Several more points of order followed. Session Chair Artur Stele looked visibly frustrated, asking delegates “do not play games.” He asked delegates not to return their devices until the end of the business session.

Prudence Pollard from the North American Division repeated the call for a division-by-division vote to determine the precise source of the discrepancy.

Stele declared the issue settled and asked the delegates to move on with proposed changes to the Church Manual.

Elizabeth Talbot from the North American Division called a point of order, saying the lack of discussion on Wilson’s motion was a violation of parliamentary procedure. Stele apologized, saying that perhaps he moved too fast, and immediately pivoted to discussion of the Church Manual.

Not long after the devices were officially scrapped, Meridia posted two tweets, saying their devices were not the source of the problem, and attributing the issue to human error.

@pastortyedavis @gcsession @MegenJM #GCSA2015 #gcsa15 Just off the phone with our team. System works, just can't get everyone to vote. #74%

— Audience Response (@meridiaars) July 5, 2015

@mjshally @pastortyedavis @gcsession @MegenJM No technical ability to control the human element. Almost 1300 votes collected. #disappointed

— Audience Response (@meridiaars) July 5, 2015

WATCH: Delegates Show Support for Electronic, Secret Voting:

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org, and a member of the General Conference reporting team in San Antonio, Texas.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6923

By not confronting the issue of the abstaining voters, we have leaders that are displaying a type of enabling co-dependacy that avoids the real problem for the sake of peace making. I want leaders that stand up for their choices. If it was said that they were going to do electronic voting, and it is known that people are abstaining, nothing should move forward until the delegates do their job and vote.

8 Likes

Wow, that’s pretty serious right there. Suggesting that certain delegates are either not capable of pressing a button or are willfully throwing it is serious. Delegates actually willfully throwing it is serious. Either way, it’s ugly. Calling for a division by division count is hardly going to endear NAD. Are other delegates less likely to want to save NAD’s tush over WO as a result?

I sincerely hope that the company is trying to save its reputation and there actually is a malfunction. Other alternatives are so divisive.

5 Likes

Does any one know whether the supplier has been involved in trying to overcome these problems? It seems to me that Meridia would have an extreme interest in their equipment sucessfully working.

I think this comment from Reimar Vetne is interesting:

"Quick quiz time: How many Adventist theology students do you think will cheat on an exam if they believe they will get away with it? Answer: Here in Mexico at least 50% will. With a substantial risk of getting caught? At least 30% will do it anyway. Both my wife and I have repeatedly caught our future pastors cheating on Greek, Hebrew and other exams.

Another quick quiz: How many San Antonio delegates will refuse to push the button on an e-vote device if they prefer public voting over confidential voting (which they have repeatedly demonstrated that they do) and they think cheating and not pushing a button one final time will end secret e-voting? Answer: 500 delegates.

The e-voting company assures us that the system works, and they repeatedly rent out equipment to voting bodies 10x as large as this GC session. E-voting works everywhere elsewhere, just not among Adventists - who we already know have a record of dislike for secret voting.

How embarrassing! What a witness we are to the non-Adventists watching us."

15 Likes

And the world is watching in real time!

Trust The Process.

8 Likes

It is my understanding that the company has a team there on the ground working with GC communications. They insist it is working fine.

6 Likes

This company providing the electronic voting technology have and do serve large voting groups of 20,000 and more with no technical issues. It’s pretty obvious what is going on.

6 Likes

This certainly appears to be an attempt at both sabortage and insubordination!!
There is an option
Let the delegates who believe they have been robbed abstain from voting altogether until such times as electronic voting is restored.

7 Likes

Nerida says their voting machines are working perfectly. As do the GC IT people.

4 Likes

It seems to me that the GC leaders who refuse to test by division are undermining all trust and transparency. Paper ballots can, of course, be manipulated or miscounted.

6 Likes

Old age is creeping in. Now where is the remote?

3 Likes

I envisioned so many terrible scenarios where the vote would go against WO and fracture the church. This is so much worse. It calls into question the integrity of the GC leadership from the president on down. What is happening is antithetical to all that Christianity and Adventism stands for.

We believe that at the end of time, that while Sabbath will be the pivot point, the really issue is forcing people to vote different than their conscience. Now here we are with two classes of leaders supporting the very thing we say we stand against:

  1. Those who are pushing for the boycott of a method that will allow the voice of conscience to be expressed.

  2. And in my view, even more culpable leadership that will stand by and let this happened.

No doubt they will get all that they want coming out of the GC session, but I cannot imagine that God will honor the next five years for this horrible breach of all that is right.

What makes this most troubling is that it resembles the crazy thinking of Richard Nixon, who did stupid illegal things to make sure he was reelected, when there was in reality essentially no chance that he would have lost anyway.

It seems pretty clear, that if the leadership did the right thing they would still get the outcome they desire.

Finally it is a severe act of unfaith to assume the only way they can get Gods outcome is to cheat the system.

In a troubled grip of grace

Steve Moran

16 Likes

How is it possible for his statement not be interpreted as a preference for paper ballots?

5 Likes

Indeed.

I’m just afraid that we’ll hear certain factions opine that “Lord Jesus Himself caused the voting equipment to be faulty”.

Now THAT would be embarrassing!.

8 Likes

Edited to say this is a reply to Steve Moran.

Steve, while it is certainly possible that those refusing a division by division revote are “in on it”, I think the more likely scenario is some delegates from some divisions are undermining it purposefully and the leaders are not wanting to pursue it because it works out in their favor.

It seems to me that Wilson highly prizes the appearance of unity, and one division standing up and basically accusing others of cheating probably made his head spin. He would want to squash that, not because he knew or thought it was true, but because of the enormity of the accusation. I am cynical enough to think he’d do some shenanigans to avoid an investigation because he would prefer not to use evote, (and was upset at the public accusation), but not cynical enough to think he knows about the sabotage and is trying to cover it up. If he wants the evote to go away, it would be easy to just convince himself that God works in mysterious ways and the NAD is being a bully. Maybe I’m wrong though.

It’s going to be an interesting few days, that’s for sure!

3 Likes

I find myself wanting to ask Kevin Paulsen if,from his perspective he is okay with this since it accomplishes his end goal?

Steve Moran

6 Likes

Beth perhaps, but my sense is that in most cases the delegates are going to vote they way their leaders want anyway,it seems all that would have to happen is for the leaders to tell/ask their respective delegates to use the devices and it would happen. Even if there is no coercion it is just as wrong to stand-by and not ask the to use the devices.

In the grip of grace

Steve Moran

1 Like

Not sure that you will get a straight answer on that one, Steve :slight_smile: Good luck…

It is wrong, I agree.

However, looking at the psychology of it, they would have to believe that delegates are actually sabatoging in order to do that. It is much easier to believe God might be at work here since it ends up to their advantage. It helps them in doing the holy work of defeating the NAD. People actually cheating is messy. Why go there when you can just accept that it is strange the system isn’t working and then shut down those divisive NADers who insist on wrecking church unity?

I would add that I am speaking more of the GC leaders. I would find it more believable that at least some division leaders might have some inkling of what is really going on, but same pressures apply. Why dig into it too deeply when it is all working out anyway?

2 Likes