Unit Convention

As you are aware, some national communities elect their delegates on the basis of areas which have Local Spiritual Assemblies, while in other, larger, national communities, delegates are elected on the basis of electoral units in which all adult believers have the vote.

Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice: 1963-1986, # 433, p. 671

As you may know, attendance at unit conventions and the National Convention is limited to those individuals who are Bahá’ís in good standing.  While one of the responsibilities of a delegate is to report back to the believers in the unit he or she represents and to acquaint them with an account of the accomplishments, decisions, and plans of their national community, there is no prescribed method by which this duty should be discharged, and the gatherings arranged for this purpose are therefore not formal administrative events.  In light of the nature of the information usually shared, participation in such gatherings would, in general, involve members of the Bahá’í community.  However, should individuals who are not Bahá’ís attend, they need not be turned away, and in that case, a presenter should be sensitive to the need to modify the matters discussed to accommodate the guests.

Universal House of Justice dated 5 May 2014

Each National Spiritual Assembly should study and master the broad outlines of this system. All matters of detail should be decided by the National Assembly which would ensure that the friends are fully informed and thoroughly understand what they are expected to do. The help and advice of the Counsellors and their Auxiliary Board members and assistants could be sought in working out these details and in educating the friends. It may also be desirable for the National Assembly to appoint a special national committee to organize the elections and to oversee them through unit or sub-unit committees or representatives. Such matters of detail could include the following:

* The number of delegates to be allocated to each unit. Although one for each unit is preferable, this may not be practicable in certain instances, such as a unit which contains one or more very large local communities. In such cases it may be necessary to make the unit large enough to be the electoral base for two or possibly three delegates.

* The number and size of sub-units. These could be as many as there Local Spiritual Assemblies in a unit, the boundaries being so delineated as to include the surrounding isolated believers and Bahá’í groups. It may even be necessary in some remote areas to have sub-units in which there are no Local Spiritual Assemblies.

* The body to be responsible for organizing a unit convention or sub-unit meeting or for establishing and supervising a polling station. This could be a centrally located, firmly established Local Spiritual Assembly or a committee.

* The day or days on which the election should take place. Elections could be carried out in different sub-units on different days, extended over a reasonable period of time, if this is felt to be desirable.

* The manner in which ballots are to be cast, collected, counted, and consolidated with other ballots from the same unit.

* Procedures to be followed in consultation, if the procedure chosen allows for consultation.

* A method for monitoring the balloting to ensure that proper Bahá’í procedures are followed, that the ballots are safeguarded, and that a Bahá’í voter cannot cast more than one ballot.

* The procedure for holding a second ballot should there be a tie-vote for the delegate.

* The means for announcing to the friends in all units the names of their elected delegates.

It is the hope of the Universal House of Justice that the implementation of these instructions this year and thereafter will promote Bahá’í solidarity, broaden the basis of representation at the National Conventions and that thereby the work of the Faith in each country will be characterized by greater efficiency and enhanced harmony.

Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice: 1963-1986, # 433, p. 671

In addition to the voting, the opportunity for consultation with the delegates is important. Hitherto this has been achieved by calling a convention in each unit to which all the believers in that electoral unit are invited. The voting for delegates has then taken place at the unit conventions with provision for voting by mail for those who do not attend. In some areas these meetings have been very fruitful and have helped to foster collaboration among the believers in the unit. However, in other areas, no doubt for a number of reasons, attendance at unit conventions has been very low, as has been the voting by mail, and this has meant that the delegates have been elected by a relatively small proportion of the electorate.

Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice: 1963-1986, # 433, p. 671

In view of the growth of the Faith and the developing life of the Bahá’í communities, the Universal House of Justice has decided that, notwithstanding that in some countries the number of believers and of Local Spiritual Assemblies is still small, the time has come for delegates to National Conventions everywhere to be elected on the basis of electoral units.

Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice: 1963-1986, # 433, p. 671

When establishing the electoral unit basis for the election of delegates, a National Spiritual Assembly should divide the territory under its jurisdiction into electoral units, based on the number of adult Bahá’ís in each area, in such a way that each unit will be responsible for electing preferably one delegate only.

Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice: 1963-1986, # 433, p. 671

Where holding unit conventions has proved ineffective, or does not seem to be a viable procedure, a National Assembly may divide each electoral unit into sub-units of a convenient size. A meeting could then be held in each sub-unit to which all the adult believers residing therein would be invited. This should result in the participation of a large number of the believers. It is important to remember, however, that the delegate to be elected represents the entire unit and therefore, although the voting may be carried out in sub-units, each voter has all the adult believers resident in the entire unit to choose from in voting for the delegate.

Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice: 1963-1986, # 433, p. 671

All Delegates elected at the electoral unit conventions are invited to attend the National Convention and participate in the election of the National Spiritual Assembly. If unable to attend, an elected delegate still has the duty of participating in the election of the National Spiritual Assembly through mailed ballot. The believer receiving the next highest number of votes after an elected delegate cannot attend the National Convention on behalf of a delegate who is unable to attend. If, at the time of the National Convention, a delegate no longer resides in the electoral unit where elected, then the National Assembly may recognize the believer receiving the next highest number of votes as the delegate for that electoral unit. Only the National Assembly can make this decision. It is only when the National Assembly has made this decision that this believer would be invited to attend and participate in the National Convention in place of the delegate originally elected.

NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada