HAA Elections FAQ

Who is eligible to vote for Harvard’s Overseers and HAA Elected Directors?

Eligible voters include all Harvard degree holders, except for members of the Corporation and officers of instruction or administration at Harvard. All degree-holding alumni may vote for Elected Directors.

When does the election take place?

Ballots are mailed to eligible voters by April 1. Ballots must be received, at the indicated address, by noon EST on May 20, 2016. Results will be announced at the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association, which takes place on the afternoon of Commencement Day, May 26, 2016.

How are candidates nominated?

A committee of the Harvard Alumni Association is responsible for developing and presenting a slate of nominees. The nominating committee's voting members include three current or recent Overseers, along with up to nine alumni of varied background and experience chosen by the leadership of the HAA. The committee meets several times during the course of the fall to develop a slate of candidates. This year the committee selected a slate of eight candidates for Overseer, and nine for HAA Elected Director.

Prospective candidates may also seek a place on the ballot by petition—that is, by collecting signatures

How is the candidates’ placement on the ballot determined?

By rule, the ballot materials separately identify the candidates nominated by the HAA nominating committee and any nominated by petition. The order of candidates within each category is determined by lot.

Who currently serves on the Board of Overseers?

The Board comprises 30 Overseers elected by Harvard alumni, together with the president and treasurer of the University, who serve ex officio. Typically, five Overseers are elected each spring to serve six-year terms that begin at Commencement.

The Overseers bring a broad range of experience and perspectives to bear on the work of the University. The class elected in 2015, for instance, includes:

  • the chief information officer of an international investment banking firm
  • an associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
  • a professor of physics and mathematics
  • a professor of gynecologic oncology
  • the president of a liberal arts college

A full list of the present members of the Board of Overseers appears here: harvard.edu/board-overseers.

What is the role of the Overseers?

The Board of Overseers is one of Harvard’s two governing boards, the other one being the President and Fellows, also known as the Corporation. Drawing on the diverse experience and expertise of its members, the Board of Overseers exerts broad influence over the University's strategic directions, provides essential counsel to the University’s leadership on priorities and plans, has the power of consent to certain actions such as the election of Corporation members, and directs the visitation process by which a broad array of Harvard Schools and departments are periodically reviewed.

The more than 50 visiting committees directed by the Board, on which Overseers serve with others, play a principal role in assessing the quality of Harvard’s programs and assuring that the University remains true to its charter as a place of learning.

The Board as a whole typically meets five times during the academic year. Its plenary sessions commonly focus on a broad topic that is prominent on the University agenda—such as the effort to enhance undergraduate education, the pursuit of interfaculty academic collaboration, or emerging initiatives in the sciences or the arts or international studies. Plenary sessions also commonly include reports from the Board’s several standing committees (which cover both academic and administrative domains) as well as a discussion with the president of the University about key issues and challenges. Here the Overseers may have their greatest effect, bringing to bear their special expertise, wise judgment, and deep interest in Harvard.

What is the role of the Elected Directors?

The HAA Board of Directors guides the activities of the Harvard Alumni Association, the official organization of all Harvard University alumni. Eighteen directors are elected by the alumni as their "at-large" representatives. Other directors are appointed to represent a specific region, class or alumni organization. Elected Directors provide leadership for the HAA and its various committees, a capacity often demonstrated by a record of service to Harvard and an ability to communicate widely and effectively with other alumni.

What is the deadline for voting?

To be counted, ballots must be received by 12:00 noon EDT, May 20, 2016.

What if I lose my ballot or do not receive one?

You can call the Election Services Co. (ESC) help desk toll-free 1-866-720-4357 to request a replacement ballot. You can also email the help desk [email protected]. Please include your name, mailing address, degree and graduation year.

What is the procedure for issuing and tabulating replacement ballots?

A voter may request a replacement ballot until May 11, 2016. ESC will check the database to confirm that the requesting party is an eligible voting member. If the name does not appear in the voter database, ESC will contact Harvard.

Upon verification, ESC will mail the voter a new ballot. The voter’s record in the database is flagged as having been sent a replacement ballot. If the ESC processing and tabulation systems detect that a voter has mailed back two ballots, the second ballot will be set aside.  Replacement ballots must be received by the election deadline date to be valid.

How are the votes tallied?

ESC utilizes a proven optical scanning process to record votes and automatically check for duplicate ballots. At the close of the election, all remaining ballots are processed and the election team conducts a final quality review. Only the Chief Technical Officer and a limited number of designees are authorized to tabulate the results.

The final post office pick up will be on May 20, 2016 at noon EST, the election deadline. During the tabulation process, the software examines each ballot to ensure that the voters have followed the voting rules. ESC’s tabulation systems have been scrutinized by the Department of Labor, the Carter Organization and other various client auditors. Final certified results will be provided to Harvard University after the close of the election.

Why is a unique identifier needed?  Are you tracking my vote?

As each vote is entered, the database records the ballot selections along with the ballot identification number.  This number is tracked in a “previously voted” file and cannot be used again to prevent a second vote from entering the tabulation system. This ensures only one vote per member. Each ballot contains a unique, tamper proof, modulus-10 check digit number (unique identifier) to guard against tampering and duplication. The captured vote is encrypted at the time of receipt and will be de-encrypted on the day the ballots are tabulated.

Why is Harvard using a third-party election services provider to conduct the election?

Harvard chose Election Services Co. (ESC) because it specializes in administering elections nationwide. It has the expertise, experience and equipment to efficiently and accurately tally votes while protecting the voter’s anonymity. They manage many institutions of higher learning alumni association elections, and have done so for over a decade.

Why does Harvard not have electronic voting?

The University is actively exploring the most efficient way to conduct the Overseer election, including the feasibility of electronic voting. We are taking into consideration a number of factors, including information security of our alumni's information in this review.

More information will be forthcoming in the event the University changes the election process.

Why am I receiving a ballot when I’ve opted out of all Harvard Communications?

The annual election for the Board of Overseers is mandated by Massachusetts law. Therefore, on the advice of counsel, we have included you on the voting list. This said, you will not receive any further mail from Harvard until the next election for the Board of Overseers.