In July 2016, OFN announced that for the first time in its 30-year history, the OFN Board of Directors had approved proxy voting at OFN’s Annual Membership Meeting. This meant that every OFN Member had the opportunity to vote for OFN Board Members regardless of whether or not they were attending OFN’s Annual Conference.
The OFN Board and staff noted that smaller asset-sized CDFIs, particularly those with assets less than $10MM, were underrepresented in the 2015 voter pool compared to other asset-size segments. OFN hypothesized that this disparity could be caused by requiring that Members attend the Conference to vote—an expense smaller CDFIs may not be able to or want to incur.Nineteen Members voted via proxy, of which 11 did not attend the Conference. Proxy voting was concentrated among CDFIs with total assets under $25MM and particularly among CDFIs with assets under <$10MM, who did not attend the Conference (see charts below).
Additionally, of the 11 proxy voters who did not attend the Conference, 82 percent (n=9) were either rural CDFIs and/or CDFIs led by a person of color—two groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in OFN’s election processes.
Sixty-seven percent of Members voted at the 2016 OFN Board Elections, the highest turnout in 10 years. Without the 11 Members who did not vote attend the Conference and did vote via proxy, the turnout rate would drop to 61 percent. Without all 19 Members who voted via proxy in 2016, the turnout rate would drop to 57 percent.
We are encouraged by our 2016 voter turnout and the positive impact of proxy voting seemed to have on that; however, we still detect a disparity in 2016 voter representation among Members with assets <$10MM compared to our entire Membership. In addition, voter turnout for Members with assets <$10MM increased by only 3% from 2015 to 2016 compared to 19 percent for our entire Membership. Although, voter turnout among rural Members and Members led by persons of color with assets <$10mm did increase by 33 percent and 42 percent, respectively.
In short, the advent of proxy voting appears to have increased overall voter turnout at the 2016 OFN Board Elections. We are encouraged by this positive trend but recognize we can do more to engage Members with assets <$10MM to ensure our voter turnout is reflective of our Membership as a whole.