Why Your Future Depends on APA's Presidential Election

by Jeffrey E. Barnett, PsyD, ABP, Past President Division 31

Heard all across the nation in response to my pleas that psychologists from the State, Provincial, and Territorial Psychological Associations participate in the upcoming APA election and support the three candidates who support SPTA issues:

“I never vote in those elections.  What do they have to do with me anyway?”
“What difference can one vote make?”
“Who cares what they do at APA? It’s what happens at the State level that matters.”
“It’s all so political. I’m a clinician. I’m not interested in that stuff.”
“I’m too busy trying to make a living. I can’t be bothered wasting my time with elections.”
“The staff does everything at APA. What does it matter who the president of APA is?”

The ballots for the APA Presidential election will be e-mailed or sent to each APA member on September 15th. Why should this matter to you? I’m sure you have more mail than you care to look at. Yet, this ballot may be one of the more important pieces of mail you receive this year.

The APA President has great power and influence. Each president leads the APA Board of Directors and runs the meetings of the APA Council of Representatives, and, therefore, has great influence over issues that are addressed by the Board of Directors and Council and how much attention (staff time and money) they receive. Each year the APA budget of approximately $100 million (that’s a lot of money!) is dispersed to a wide range of initiatives and activities.  Since we can’t do everything, many tough decisions need to be made.

The influence of the APA President should not be minimized in the making of these decisions. Will APA’s Council of Representatives invest its energy in addressing health care reform, insurance reform, Medicare reimbursement, managed care issues, prescriptive authority, health and behavior CPT codes, licensure issues, mobility, specialization and guidelines, and related legal and regulatory issues of importance to the States and State psychologists? Will a significant portion of the APA budget go toward addressing these issues; or will it go elsewhere? Who we elect in the next APA presidential election will have a great impact on how these questions are answered.

Over the past 15 years between only 15% to 31% of eligible voters have participated in the APA presidential election. The science community typically has had a very well coordinated election campaign with an informed electorate who participated in the election. To be successful and to ensure that the issues that are so important to our survival and success are addressed fully, we need to do two things. First, every SPTA member who is a member of APA must vote in this next election. I can assure you, every single vote counts!  Second, we must each understand the election system used by APA and make it work for us.

APA uses the HARE system in the presidential election. Each voter receives a ballot with the five candidates for APA president-elect listed.  Voters must rank order each candidate, that is, place a 1 next to your first choice, a 2 next to your second choice, and so on until all candidates have been ranked. In some of the elections in the past the States’ candidates would have won the presidential election if all State voters had done this. But, because many only ranked their top choice or top two choices, these candidates lost out on many possible votes. The way the HARE system works is that first the candidates receives all their number 1 votes. Then, based on each candidate’s number of votes, the 2 votes are apportioned to candidates, followed by the 3 votes, 4, votes, and 5 votes.  If a States’ candidate receives the most votes in the first round, she or he may still lose if not receiving a lot of 2 and 3 votes. They all count! We must use this system and make it work for us. Doing so can win an election for us.

So what does this mean to you when you participate in this election? You must give your first three votes to the three States’ candidates running in the APA presidential election. Just giving our top candidate your #1 vote isn’t enough. It is important that the non-State candidates not be ranked number 2 or 3. If they receive these rankings on the ballot it will divide the State vote and provide more support to their competitors.

Should you have any questions about any of these issues and if you would like to help further SPTA interests within APA, please email Janet Matthews.

Acknowledgements: Special thanks are extended to Drs. Ruth Paige and Dorothy Cantor for their helpful feedback and suggestions on an earlier version of this article. Thanks are also extended to Garnett Coad, of the APA election office, for providing the election data quoted in this article.