HOW THE FLAWS IN "ONE-MAN, ONE-VOTE" CAN BE FIXED
TO RESTORE REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT TO THE U.S.C.A.
An editorial by Bob Alman
The USCA, contrary to the desires of its management, has now become, for all
practical purposes, an oligarchy. There is no longer any real
decision-making power or accountability for the governance of the USCA at the
This is a direct consequence of passage of the "one-man, one-vote"
constitutional amendment, which took away the authority of local club
management to discuss and condition issues and vote their club's views on
constitutional issues and election of regional officers. Instead,
"one-man, one-vote" gave the ballot to individuals who now vote by mail,
absent the opportunity of having the facts and hearing the debate.
Who could blame such voters for registering a knee-jerk, "common sense"
opinion, marking their slap shot ballots, and mailing them in to the
secretary of the USCA thinking they've done their democratic duty? To
achieve more than a superficial understanding of the issues on their own
would require an unreasonable investment of time and energy. Most of us in
this situation are simply not up to it.
For several years, those who saw the dangers to the USCA organization in
adopting the ill-conceived "one-man, one-vote" constitutional amendment
lobbied effectively against it. But its proponents kept bringing it back in
one form or another. Finally, in 1996, weary of attempting to counter with
reasoned argument such a compelling slogan, USCA organizers held their noses,
got out of the way, and allowed "one-man, one-vote" to pass. I was one of
them, and I agreed that the USCA needed to get beyond "one-man, one-vote" in
order to address more pressing issues.
CONSEQUENCES OF "ONE-MAN, ONE-VOTE" IN THE 1997 BALLOTING
So the measure passed. And now, in the first year of "one-man, one-vote," we
are already seeing the consequences in the current USCA ballot to be tallied
at the USCA Annual Meeting in April. The consequences are:
- Likely passage of a measure most informed USCA members would now agree is
a BAD measure. It will pass simply because it is on the ballot and
recommended by the USCA Management Committee. This is the measure moving
West Virginia and Virginia from the Southern Region to the Mid-Atlantic
Region. (Some people I have informed of the situation have said, "It's too
bad, but I've already mailed in my ballot from the USCA CROQUET BULLETIN, and
I voted for it because I assumed it was a sound measure, or the Management
Committee wouldn't have put it on the ballot.")
- Likely passage of a measure which amends the constitution by taking away
from the USCA electorate the power of changing or setting regional boundaries
and gives it to the Management Committee, who will no longer require the
confirmatory vote of the electorate to make such changes. Again, the reason
this will pass, basically, is because it's on the ballot and the USCA
Management Committee recommends it.
PASSAGE OF ITEM SEVEN RENDERS MEANINGLESS ITEM SIX
Happily, passage of the second of these measure will render meaningless the
passage of the first. It will allow the Management Committee to quickly
undo the damage done by the first measure, without being required by the
constitution to wait another year to ask the general membership to vote West
Virginia and Virginia back into the Southern region where, as it turns out,
many if not most residents want to remain.
That's a happy solution, you might say, but is this any way to run a national
organization? Doesn't it remind you of the Initiative process in California
and Oregon, in which contradictory ballot measures are frequently passed in
the same election and end up in lengthy litigation before the Supreme Court?
As an amateur student of organizational pathologies, I see the issues of
"one-man, one-vote" and changing of the regional boundaries dove-tailing in a
most interesting way, revealing the dangerous organizational path the USCA
has taken towards further centralizing power.
Destroying the club-level grassroots democratic basis of the USCA through
something called a "one-man, one-vote" initiative is the kind of thing
journalists are fond of calling a "sad irony." This sad irony need not be
tragic, however, or permanent - not if the USCA management acknowledges what
happened and accepts the fact that the organization is now, functionally, an
oligarchy; that mailed-ballot voting is merely a confirmatory formality; that
isolated voters should not be expected to weigh and decide issues for which
top management needs to be responsible.
With the virtual disenfranchisement of the local clubs and members, the USCA
Management Committee now bears an unreasonably heavy responsibility to find
new ways of assaying local sentiment on important issues.
Why? Because it is another fact of the USCA that it is run by unpaid
volunteers. Most members of the executive committee - and for that matter,
the chairs of the appointed sub-committees - have active working lives,
family, and other responsibilities. They simply don't have time to do the
study, the investigation, and the canvassing that is ideally needed to
condition the resolution of many issues before them.
MANAGEMENT NEEDS THE CONSTITUTIONAL POWER TO GOVERN EFFECTIVELY
But they sure as hell can do a better job figuring out the issues than an
isolated individual electorate, so the USCA Management Committee will tend to
draw unto itself increasing powers - as in the case of the current ballot
measure to allow the Management Committee to set regional boundaries. This
is a necessary and inevitable path of organizational evolution in the wake of
"one-man, one-vote." The members of the Management Committee did not wish
to become oligarchs; but they must have the decision-making power in order to
This situation is the fault of neither management nor the voters. If the
fault lies anywhere, it is with the sloganeers who invested their whole
hearts in their righteous campaign, but not all their brains. Now, surely
even they will be able to see the need to restore to the USCA the
representative government which their constitutional amendment has taken
Once the consequences of the "one-man, one-vote" passage have been
acknowledged, there is something that management can do to address this
situation. Everyone in the USCA would benefit from a real commitment of
the USCA Management Committee to share its burden of governance with the
entire Executive Committee (the sectional and district presidents) as active
and involved advisers to the Regional Vice-Presidents. In this way the
Management Committee, to put it plainly, takes itself off the hook and makes
clear to all USCA members that the district and section presidents now have
the responsibility to keep their regional officers on track and in synch with
the best interests of the local USCA membership.
U.S.C.A. VOTERS SHOULD VOTE ON REPRESENTATIVES, NOT ISSUES
To truly "de-federalize" USCA politics, the individual votes of USCA members
could be made relevant again by having USCA members ELECT their district and
section presidents (who are currently appointed by management). This is a
more responsible and practical use of "one-man, one-vote" in the context of
representative government, as the electorate would not be required to vote
directly on issues, but to put into office those in whom they repose some
confidence in their ability to make good decisions on their behalf. The
district and sectional officers would then be held accountable by the voters
for keeping their regional vice presidents in touch with the grassroots
membership and representing their best interests on the Management Committee.
In addition to making possible the direct election of the Executive Committee
to restore a semblance of representative government to the USCA, management
needs to make a commitment to broader communication of issues which affect
the membership, through already-existing channels: the USCA CROQUET BULLETIN;
the NATIONAL CROQUET CALENDAR; the USCA Website and CROQUET WORLD ONLINE
All these channels of communications are freely available to USCA management.
There is no need for further "nasty surprises" like the constitutional
moving of the Virginias to another region without the knowledge or consent
of the members most affected.
Events have quickly revealed to even the most casual observer the deadly
flaws in "one-man, one-vote." But "one-man, one-vote" need not be viewed
merely as a mistake. With the right fix, it could yet become a forward step
in the evolution of the USCA towards a genuinely workable representative
government nurtured in the grassroots of local clubs.
But first and foremost, to get this thing fixed, we'll need a great slogan.
Something, perhaps, like....
"RESTORE REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT TO THE USCA!"