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Petitioning the American Sociological Association

The American Sociological Association Constitution and Bylaws enshrines a member’s or group of members’ right to petition the association.  Please read the entirety of this document before embarking on your petition effort, as there are important guidelines and time lines. This guide has been written to make the petition process more transparent and better understood by the membership. If you are uncertain about any particular rule or procedure, or have suggestions to improve this guide, please contact the Governance Department at governance@asanet.org or sections@asanet.org.

If you are thinking of organizing a petition for any reason, the Governance Department is here to assist you.

Governance provides the following support for petitioners

  • We can verify the membership status of your signatories
  • Connect you with the Committee or Body in the Association which you are petitioning.
  • Update you on rules, requirements and procedures involving your petition
  • Provide relevant archival and historical information.

Some potential types of petitions

You can petition ASA’s Council to put an item on its meeting agenda or put it up for a vote during the spring elections. This is called a Members' Resolution

  • You can petition the ASA Council to amend the Association’s Bylaws
  • You can petition the ASA Council to make a public statement on behalf of its members.
  • You nominate a candidate for national office in advance of the national election.
  • You can petition a Section to amend its bylaws.<
  • You can petition a Section to put a candidate on its ballot.
  • You can petition the Committee on Sections to form a new section.
  • This is by no means an exhaustive list, but illustrates some of the ways that petitions have been used in the past.

Who do I contact?

With so many options it can be confusing keeping straight who to contact and when it needs to be sent in. The following table is a quick reference. When in doubt, contact the Governance department and they can connect you with the individuals who need to receive your petition.

I want to… What body do I petition? Who do I contact? Deadline?
...have the ASA Council make a public statement The ASA Council ASA Secretary or Governance 31-Dec
...form a new section The Committee on Sections Sections 8/1 or 11/15**
…nominate a Candidate for an ASA Office and its before the annual meeting The Committee on Nominations Governance 1-Aug
…nominate a Candidate for an ASA Office and its before the election *Executive Office Governance 16-Apr
…nominate a candidate for a Section Office The Section Section Chair or Sections 16-Apr
…amend the ASA Bylaws The ASA Council   31-Dec
…amend Section Bylaws The Section Council Section Chair or Sections 31-Dec

* ASA Bylaws state that anyone with sufficient support can be placed on the ballot. This happens automatically once an adequate number of signatures have been received.
** Deadline to be considered at the Committee on Section's Next Meeting. December 31st is still the final  deadline to aquire the full  number of signatures

 

How many signatures do I need?

That depends on your goal.  For example, amendments to the ASA Constitution require signatures from at least 3% of the active voting members of the association. For example, at the end of 2011 there were 12,700 ASA members eligible to vote, so the threshold for this type of petition in 2012 would be 381 signatures. Complete membership counts for each year are available on our website.

You will need 50 signatures to place a candidate on the national ballot for the Council, the Committee on Nominations, or the Committee on Publications or 100 signatures for President-Elect, Vice President-Elect, or Secretary-Elect.

 

For Sections

Sections will usually have their own requirements defined in their bylaws. For example, a section may require signatures from 10% or 20% of its members. Associate members are permitted in this case as they can vote in section elections. If you are uncertain, please contact the Section Coordinator for official membership counts. We will use the membership counts from the end of the previous year to determine your goals.

Candidates and Ballot Initiatives may also be placed on the ballot via member petition. Each section’s bylaws should have procedures established for doing so detailed in its bylaws.

If you are forming a new section you will need signatures from at least two hundred members.

All petition signatures must be verified by the Governance Department of the Executive Office when establishing a new section. In other cases, such as a petition to amend section bylaws or place a candidate on the ballot, signatures may be sent to the Executive Office for verification if requested by the Section or the individuals organizing the petition.

 

The procedure

1.       Optional: Contact the Governance Department for updates on the number of signatures needed and contact information for the body you are petitioning.

2.       Gather signatures.

3.       Send signatures to the Governance Department. You are welcome to send signatures in batches along the way to expedite this process.

4.       We will send your proposal and signatures to the committee on your behalf and include you on all relevant communication.

 

How do I collect names?

ASA no longer requires hand written signatures for its petitions. Virtual signatures gathered by email or by a website are now accepted by the governance department. You can send the names to the department via email and in an excel spreadsheet if you like. We will verify the lists against our membership database. Remember, only current ASA members will be counted towards your petition goals. Once we verify all of your signatures we will contact you with the results and inform you if you need additional signatures.

 

Other Requirements

ASA Bylaws explain petition requirements as following:
The introductions of all petitions circulated for the purpose of validating a Members' Resolution shall contain the following statement: "For signatures to be valid, the signee must be a voting member of the American Sociological Association as of December 3l of the year of the signing. The signee's name must be written as it appears on the membership rolls of the Association, and signers must provide their addresses as they appear on the membership rolls of the Association. The date of signing shall be indicated."

Each page of the Members' Resolution and accompanying signatures must include the following statement: "This resolution (or these signatures) is submitted by ____, a voting member of the American Sociological Association."

(c) The Members' Resolution is received by the Secretary who shall verify the validity of the signatures and the requirement that the petition has been signed by three percent of the voting members of the Association. Following this verification, the Secretary shall distribute the Members' Resolution to the Council.

Under this protocol established in this document we can assist you in contacting the ASA Secretary and forwarding your validated signatures to her or him.

 

Members Resolutions in the Council

As explained in the ASA Bylaws

(d) The Members' Resolution is included on the agenda and discussed by the Council at its next scheduled meeting.

(e) If the Council disapproves the Members' Resolution, the Members' Resolution and any resolution of the Council alternative to it are published in an appropriate Association publication or by other means as deemed appropriate by the Council.

(f) A ballot containing the Members' Resolution and any alternative resolution of the Council is sent to the voting members of the Association; such a referendum will accompany the annual election ballot except under unusual circumstances as determined by the Council.

(g) The Council shall consider the urgency of any Members' Resolution brought by the voting members, and shall employ special procedures without regard to the schedule of publications where it deems this justifiable.


For complete text of all relevant passages see ASA Bylaws, Article II, Section 8 available online at http://www.asanet.org/about/bylawsarticle2.cfm

 

Starting a New Section

A petition signed by at least 200 current Association members must accompany the proposal. Petition signatures may be gathered electronically. Signing the petition implies that members will pay dues for the section for two years. The petition form must include the following statement:

"Signing this petition is a commitment to join and pay dues to the section for at least two years."

The petition should be forwarded to ASA Executive Office to the attention of the Director of Governance and Sections.

The proposal and petition for creation of a new section will then be referred to the Committee on Sections for its review. Prior to making a recommendation to the ASA Council, the Committee on Sections will review the proposal to ensure that the proposed section represents a sub-field that has intellectual merit and that the vision for the section will benefit the profession. If the Committee on Sections approves the proposal, it will recommend to ASA Council that it be granted the status of Section-in-formation. Council has the authority to approve or reject the proposal.
The Committee on Sections meets twice a year: once at the Annual Meeting and once in January. See The Sections Manual, 2011 Edition for more complete instructions.

 

Petitioning Within Sections

This process is somewhat less formal, as each section is responsible for setting its own governance agenda. In this case, the Executive Office can assist you by verifying your lists in members and putting you in contact with your section’s leaders.

See each section’s bylaws for rules and requirements governing petitions. Contact the Executive Office for bylaws if they are otherwise unavailable.

 

Timelines

Proposals sent to the ASA Council must be ready and all signatories must be gathered by December 31 of the year they were circulated. If you run out of time at the end of the year, all signatures from the previous year are invalidated and must be re-signed. No exceptions.

Proposals for new sections should be prepared in advance of the Annual Meeting or by November 15th so that they can be included on the Committee on Sections agenda meetings.

Petitions to place Candidates on the official ballot must be received by April 16th. Elections usually start at the end of the month and adequate time must be provided for the Executive Office to verify signatures, add the candidate to the ballot and give them an opportunity to provide biographical information.