ALEXANDRIA, Va.-Requiring members to sign an annual election ballot is in violation of the Federal Credit Union Bylaws, which require a secret ballot. The current and former bylaws and ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER all "support the interpretation" that the voting process must be anonymous. The federal credit unions argued that because an outside auditing firm was reviewing the ballots, the members' signatures on the ballot would not matter, but NCUA disagreed. "Secrecy in voting is interpreted to mean that `the elector may conceal from every person the name of the candidate for whom he voted,' " NCUA Associate General Counsel Sheila Albin wrote in the recent legal opinion letter. Otherwise, members may believe the secret balloting process is vulnerable to a breach and " have a chilling effect on the voting process," or an actual breach of secrecy, even if handled by independent auditors, is possible. Credit unions may use one form for the ballot and identification, according to the bylaws, as long as it is "properly designed," Albin wrote. NCUA does not get involved in election or bylaw disputes, she added, but suggested the issue be raised with the credit union's board and the legal opinion letter be shared. Albin also recommended that legal counsel be consulted in pursuing legal remedies.

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