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January 24, 2003

Equity OK's Online Voting in Annual Elections

First Entertainment Union to Offer Option of Electronic Balloting!
Increased Participation, Decreased Costs are Benefits of New Balloting Procedure
First E-Ballot Scheduled in May 2003!

Actors' Equity will become the first of the actors' entertainment unions to offer online voting in its annual elections. The announcement was made following the January Equity membership meeting, where an "overwhelming majority" ratified a Constitutional amendment to provide for the option of electronic balloting. The "yea" vote paves the way for members to have the option to use electronic voting in the upcoming May Annual Elections, in which eight Officer and 17 Council seats are open.

Equity's Executive Director, Alan Eisenberg hailed the decision, citing increased participation and decreased costs. "We are constantly striving to improve benefits and services for our members," said Eisenberg. "Participation is the key to democracy, and e-balloting will enhance our democratic process."

The amendment was passed during a special national portion of the combined membership meetings, which linked the Eastern, Central and Western Regional membership meetings via telephonic hookup. The membership vote followed the unanimous recommendations of the Election Procedures Committee (Oct. 24, 2002) and a unanimous Council resolution (Nov. 19, 2002) with support from the Chairs of the Constitutional Review Committee.

How does it work ?

Equity's elections are handled by election.com, an internationally-recognized election services company that provides a wide-range of sophisticated voting services, including voter registration, data processing, balloting and tabulation for numerous states, municipalities, pension retirement systems, non-profit organizations, and unions. election.com has been tabulating Equity's elections for the past several years, with "a perfect track record," said Mary Lou Westerfield, Equity's Executive Assistant for Policy, who oversees the elections.

In April, 2003, following the Annual Membership Meeting, ballots will be distributed to all paid-up, eligible Equity members which will give instructions for the option of electronic balloting. "When you receive your ballot, it will include information to sign-in to election.com's secure website. That website will have an Equity-only section that lists the candidates and their statements - exactly the same information that appears in the paper ballot," explained Westerfield. Of course members can still vote by paper ballot, however, members who choose to vote electronically will use their membership number (which appears on their membership card), in order to access the Equity-only portion of the election website.

Fool-Proof System Prohibits Duplicate Balloting

"There are numerous safeguards built into the process," said Equity's Assistant Executive Director for National Administration and Finance, Guy Pace. "For example, if you elect to vote electronically, the system will not accept a paper ballot, so that votes are not counted twice. Similarly, if you vote by paper ballot, and subsequently attempt to send in an electronic ballot, the system will inform the voter that he or she has already voted. Also, the electronic ballot allows you to go back and review your vote before it's actually submitted, so you can change your mind before you hit the 'submit' button."

Increased Participation, Lower Costs

Studies show that voting participation increases if voters are given easy, alternative ways to cast their ballots. "For example, with our transient voting population, this will make it easier to vote while actors are on the road or out of town," said Pace and Westerfield. "They can vote from their laptop, or a local library or website café, wherever there's internet access." Union officials also estimate that e-balloting will save the Association substantial mailing costs.