Earlier, we reported the provincial New Democrats have decided to process a group of disputed membership forms. Those forms were the subject of complaints by leadership candidate Mike Farnworth's campaign manager and Fraser-Nicola MLA Harry Lali, a leadership contestant. The complaints alleged those forms didn't have the membership payment attached as required. The party's provincial secretary Jan O'Brien has found that was the case. But she concluded that requirement "created an unnecessary step and extra work for some campaigns" and was "contrary to the BC NDP's standard way of handling the receipt of more than 10 membership forms at a time."
Moreover, even though the membership form submission deadline was Monday evening at 5:00, "there is recognition that it may not be possible to complete the processing in one day and there is provision for continuing the processing of the forms in the following days."
And that, according to Ms. O'Brien, is what will happen. The following is a complete copy of her decision.
January 17, 2011 at 5 p.m. was the deadline for bringing membership forms to Provincial Office so that new members could participate in the Leadership Election.
On late Thursday, January 13, I sent a summary of Provincial Office processes for reviewing and accepting membership forms (the "Summary") to the six declared Leadership Campaigns (Mike Farnworth, Harry Lali, Adrian Dix, Nicholas Simons, Dana Larsen, John Horgan). The Summary was not sent to any constituency associations.
The Summary contained the following point: Each individual applicant's fee must be attached to their membership form.
Two Leadership Campaigns have raised concerns related to this point.
Richard Tones, on behalf of the Farnworth campaign, states:
"It is my position that any membership that is not complete, including the membership fee being affixed, should not be considered delivered in time for the January 17, 2011 deadline and therefore deemed ineligible for voting rights on April 17, 2011. Once membership fees are attached they can be duly submitted but should be considered as submitted after the deadline."
Harry Lali states:
"The BCNDP Membership Rules that were issued to the public last week stated clearly that memberships had to arrive before 5:00 pm on January 17th at BCNDP Headquarters in a format that contained the membership fee attached to Membership Forms. My campaign complied with these rules. Not only did the Party fail to enforce these rules but they also invited those who had failed to comply with said rules to return the following day to complete the process.
The position of my campaign is that all memberships that failed to comply should be either rejected or registered on or after the 18th of January, 2011, thereby ensuring that they be unable to vote in the Election of the Leader of the BCNDP."
In summary, the issue is whether forms received in the Provincial Office without applicant fees attached should be found to have missed the January 17 deadline for submission to the Provincial Office.
Both Tones' and Lali's letters were circulated to declared Leadership Campaigns as well as some constituency canvassers. Responses were received from the Dix Campaign, the Horgan Campaign, Dana Larsen, Vancouver Kensington and Surrey Green Timbers. Lali and Tones were given a chance to respond.
A reply was received from Tones. In this reply, he indicates the scope of his concern to "memberships without fees attached to them either individually or in clear batches".
I thank the Campaigns and canvassers for their helpful responses. I have considered all of the submissions, the BC NDP Constitution, the Election Act, and the normal practices of the BC NDP in processing membership forms in reaching the following conclusions.
Several thousand membership forms were received in the Provincial Office on January 17, 2011. Some canvassers did individually attach the applicant fee to the each membership form. Notably, this was done by canvassers for Larsen, Farnworth and Lali. The Lali team was the first in the office. A great deal of time was spent unstapling the money from the forms. The money was then clipped to the front of the batch by the Provincial Office staff. These forms were each reviewed and the money verified by Provincial Staff.
When the Farnworth team arrived with their membership forms, Provincial Office staff asked them to detach the money from each form and attach the money to the front of the bundles of 20. After that was done some of the membership forms were reviewed and verified by Provincial Office staff on January 17. Farnworth canvassers returned on January 18 to complete this step with Provincial Office staff. Larsen's membership forms were handled in a similar fashion.
Most of the remaining membership forms brought to the Provincial Office on January 17 were bundled into groups of 20 with the money remitted by the members attached to the front of the bundles. Some had canvasser submission forms. When they did not, Provincial Office staff asked the canvasser to fill in submission forms and attach them. This is in fact the standard way that the submission of more than 10 membership forms by a single canvasser takes place at Provincial Office.
Some canvassers arrived at the Provincial Office on January 17 without their forms bundled and without the applicants' fees attached to the forms. Some arrived with only cheques attached to the membership forms. Provincial Office staff advised the canvassers to bundle the forms into groups of 20, attach the fees remitted by the members to the front of the bundles, and to fill in and attach a canvasser submission form. The volunteer nature of membership sign up means that Provincial Office staff frequently work with canvassers in this way.
By 5 p.m. on January 17, the vast majority of membership forms were in batches of 20, with membership fees remitted by the members and canvasser submission forms attached.
At 5 p.m. on January 17, there remained a few hundred membership forms that had not been bundled with membership fees and canvasser submission forms attached. The Summary also notes that if there was not enough time to process all forms on January 17, 2011, the forms would be date stamped and the canvasser would have to return the next day to complete the process.
On January 15, in response to a question from one of the campaigns, I also advised all the leadership campaigns that if the canvasser submission forms had not been filled in by 5 p.m. on January 17, all membership forms would be date stamped and the individual submitting the forms would have to return to the Provincial Office during regular hours to complete the submission of the membership forms.
The request that each individual applicant's fee must be attached to their membership form created an unnecessary step and extra work for some campaigns. It is also clear that this point contradicts the BC NDP's standard way of handling the receipt of more than 10 membership forms at a time which is to bundle the forms into batches of 20 and attach the fees paid to the front of the forms. It has always been the goal of Provincial Office to encourage the growth of membership. Redundant internal processes should not inadvertently become an impediment to this goal.
In my view, the central point of the 5 p.m. deadline on January 17 is to ensure that the membership forms are at Provincial Office by that time. There is recognition that it may not be possible to complete the processing in one day and there is provision for continuing the processing of the forms in the following days. As a result, the processing of membership forms received in the Provincial Office by 5 p.m. on January 17 will continue.
Provincial Office staff will follow the standard practice of examining each form individually to determine if it is complete. If they pass scrutiny they will have a membership date of January 17, 2011. If the forms are found to be defective, they will be rejected. The membership date of any forms resubmitted will be the date of resubmission.
Finally, the BC NDP Constitution requires that members or their immediate families pay their membership fees. The Election Act prohibits canvassers from making donations on behalf of individuals. Canvassers are required to sign to affirm that each member has paid his/her own membership fee.
The BC NDP will conduct a random audit of all membership forms received in the past few weeks. Potential members will be contacted to verify that they have signed the membership form and paid their own membership fees.
Canvassers are advised to contact the Provincial Office to arrange a convenient time to continue the processing of membership forms.