A new year brings a new code-voting method.

Happy New Year! Perhaps this year we may see a change in the way codes are developed by the International Code Council.

At ICC’s annual meeting, one of the major points of discussion was the voting process. Currently, in order to vote on code changes you have to be a jurisdictional member (inspector) and you have to be present at the code change hearing. There is no proxy voting or remote voting allowed. However, ICC does stream its code hearings on the Internet.

The common theme discussed at the annual meeting was the disenfranchised members that cannot vote. The cost of attending the code hearings is not cheap. As jurisdictions tighten their belts,  no money is left to send inspectors to the meeting. Many inspectors have indicated they are paying their own way. Others are present to represent their inspectors association, which pays for the expenses.

One of the biggest questions is, “Who should be voting?” That can be followed up with, “Where should they be voting?”

Over the years, there were discussions of having remote sites where an inspector could go to watch the hearings and vote at the remote site. The thought process was that there would be security with the voting process. That concept has fallen by the wayside. The problem with any remote site is where to locate it and who should monitor it. If an inspector is a six-hour drive from a remote site, that inspector is still disenfranchised.

Remote control

With security possible over the Internet, the discussion has switched to online voting. If you support Internet voting, it opens the discussion for many other questions and concerns. Security will always be the No. 1 issue. Some questioned whether a remotely located inspector would allow someone else not authorized to vote on code changes to vote for them. The same comment could be made at the annual convention. Each inspector is handed a voting device. He could easily hand that device to someone else and go out for a drink. That should put the discussion to rest, but it probably won’t.

The next big issue is do inspectors have to sit and watch the code-change hearings? Again, they don’t have to pay attention to the hearing if they are present at the annual meeting. They can be anywhere, talking to whomever, and then vote when the moderator calls for a vote. Many issues are discussed and debated prior to the annual meeting. Many voting members come to the annual meeting with a tally sheet identifying how they are going to vote.

Tally sheets are not some hidden secret. They are actually encouraged so that inspectors associations will take the time to review all code changes. However, some inspectors were quick to point out that they will vary from their tally sheet when they hear compelling testimony at the annual meeting. Will that happen if there is remote voting?

Another issue is when do remote inspectors have to vote? Should there be a period of time given to vote on the code changes? Two weeks was one of the most discussed time periods. The problem with a delayed vote is that no one knows the outcome of a code change for about a month.

Annual meeting importance

The other possibility is to have the remote voting based on the outcome at the annual meeting. In other words, the inspectors present at the annual meeting would vote. Their decision would be what the remote voting would be based on. The remote voting could either agree or disagree with the voting at the annual meeting. Following typical ICC policies, there would probably be a super majority - 66% required to overturn a decision at the annual meeting.

The problem with the remote voting being based on the vote at the annual meeting is those attending the meeting would have a stronger vote than the remote votes. Should attendance at the annual meeting garner a more superior vote?

It would appear from the discussions at the ICC annual meeting that some sort of remote voting will become a part of the process within the next few years. Observing the discussion, it seemed like there was a freight train rolling down the tracks that nobody was going to stop. It is just a matter of how the remote voting will take place and also how much time someone will have to cast a remote vote.

Remote voting will change the face of the code-change process. The behind-the-scenes discussion at the annual meeting and code hearings will not have the impact it has right now. To accomplish the same banter for support, one would have to get in touch with everyone voting remotely.

There will be fears and trepidations if remote voting becomes a reality. However, on many standards committees remote voting already takes place. I recently attended an ASME A112 Standard Committee meeting in San Diego by turning on my office computer and calling in on the conference-call line. I listened all day and voted on some of the issues. I was 2,000 miles away from the actual meeting, but still fully participating. That is the beauty of modern technology.

The ICC committee that developed a concept for remote voting posted its report on the ICC website at www.iccsafe.org. The comments to the report also are posted. The committee still is soliciting comments on the report and is open to different ideas or methods for remote voting. You also can indicate if you think the concept is crazy. Again, all comments are requested and welcome.

The ICC Board of Directors will be making a final decision on remote voting this year. It has plenty to talk about regarding the issue, which will be one of the most important decisions ever made by the board.

The beauty is, if they get it wrong they can always change it.