The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf [RID] held elections over two weeks, from May 3 to May 17. One of the most uncertain parts of the election was the President position.
Regan Thibodeau, a CDI, posted a vlog late Monday night reacting to the news that the President-elect was not a Deaf person. Two Deaf individuals ran against the incumbent, Jonathan Webb (who won the elections with 43.5 percent, or 1,046 votes); Ritchie Bryant brought in 38.6 percent (854) of the votes while Priscilla Poynor Moyers was awarded the remaining 17.9 percent (395) of votes.
Thibodeau’s vlog highlights some things that were mentioned in Barry Segal’s interview with Deaf Vee Journal:
“Jonathan Webb has already run for the last 3 years. He’s already shown evidence that he does not care about unity between Deaf and hearing teams; he does not care about promoting Deaf people. He does not care about developing a plan for audism and how to counteract that so that we can all unite. The last three years, the pipeline between Deaf interpreters, BIPOC community, DeafBlind people, and others have been squashed. There is no active effort to promote and stimulate that group. There’s a lot of talk about hearing business–change in membership, organization to become a business organization, and that’s important work, but you cannot oppress the group that you’re interpreting for. The only reason why you have a job is because Deaf people exist” (Thibodeau – clickable link).
Thibodeau is also upset because it is clear to her that Webb is not committed to fighting audism within RID. There is a round table video recording from October 28, 2020 and if you view the video on the 28:00 minute marker, you will see Webb responding to Thibodeau (click here to watch). Thibodeau asked Webb what his anti-audism action plan was. Webb responded saying that he is not familiar with any “high-level” individuals within organizations with a current strategic plan to address audism or racism. Webb proceeded to add that instead of working together to combat both issues, that they are each responsible to do introspection on themselves.
Dr. Naomi Sheneman of Gallaudet, a researcher specializing in Deaf and hearing interpretation, expressed her concerns that Webb’s actions may not be matching up with his October 2019 statement that non-Deaf sign language interpreters must “repeatedly prove to Deaf people they can be trusted” in a May 25 tweet (clickable link):
“Deaf President for RID” is a sentiment that Thibodeau is not alone in endorsing. Another Deaf community member, Thomas Minch, shared the same endorsement in his vlog. Minch disclosed that it wasn’t until this election that he really gained interest in the elections because there were two Deaf Interpreters running for President and yet, “RID practiced audism once again…not surprised” (Minch – clickable link).
Thibodeau and Minch both have suggested that perhaps it’s time for actual ACTION to achieve what is needed within RID. What does this mean, and what would it look like?
For instance, Minch made another vlog late Monday night, where he discusses the Roberts Rule of Order and shares his perspective that there needs to be a second election for the President position, because nobody won a true majority of the submitted votes (click here to view the vlog). Webb had 43 percent while Bryant had 38 percent, and a majority would be defined as 51 percent. The current RID bylaws allow for plurality vote, and plurality means that the person who received the most votes won regardless of how many votes were submitted. Some interpreters and Deaf community members have expressed concern that over 80% of members never cast a vote for the elections.
This leads to the question of whether the Members knew about it or not. In response to the inquiry about the fact that only 17.7% of the Members voted, CM Hall, the RID Nominations and Elections Chair, said that it is not much different than any other election year. The bylaws clearly state that 10 percent is the minimum quorum, therefore this election is valid.
CM Hall also posted the following message on RID’s Facebook page, as of May 24, 2021 to explain how the Committee reached out to the Members to remind them to vote: “The election for the RID Executive Board was conducted from May 3, 2021 through May 17, 2021. All eligible voting members received an email from the address firstname.lastname@example.org, with an elector ID and password to access the ballot for this vote. Reminder emails were sent to those who had not yet voted at the time of the reminder. Reminders were sent on May 3, 7, 12, and 17, 2021. A total of 2,295 votes were cast.” (CM Hall – view the post here)
Several community members informed Deaf Vee Journal that they thought the elections were during the conference in July and were shocked when the results were announced. This was true for many years until about 10 years ago, when a majority vote passed to push up the election dates earlier–the reason why is that it would provide for a smoother transition, as Members would go to the conference knowing who the new Board members were and the conference was an opportunity to introduce the new Board members in person. Upon further investigation, Deaf Vee Journal is able to confirm that historically a very low number of Members typically vote in the elections.
Deaf Vee Journal contacted RID for additional information on how much notice in advance the Members had and how much marketing they did about the elections other than the email reminders. Deaf Vee Journal will add another update to the original article if a response is provided.
Update: Just prior to posting this article, a current RID Member who wishes to remain anonymous forwarded Deaf Vee Journal an e-mail message they received from Webb, stating that a second election will not be happening and accusing them of being a source of destruction and division within the community. The RID Member has given permission to publish the screenshot below.