Call it aversion to change, or just part of the democratic process of an association. A series of proposed bylaw changes has created a backlash among certain members of the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives, who have blasted the entire membership with e-mails urging people to vote against some of the changes.

The voting on the six bylaw changes began December 1 and will close December 22. The vote is being done via electronic proxy; members do not need to attend a meeting to cast their ballots.

According to Sean Mahoney, chairman of SITE’s Bylaws, Policies, and Procedures Committee and vice president of charter and incentive sales, Silversea Cruises, Fort Lauderdale, the motivation behind the proposed changes was simple: “To bring forth the best candidates to lead this evolving organization into the future.

“The fact is that SITE has grown immensely,” he explained. “Membership is at an all-time high, we have a record number of chapters, our finances are now in good shape, and we just completed an unprecedented capital campaign. It’s absolutely important at this point in time that we find the most qualified leaders.”

The main resistance has focused on three proposed changes: one that gives the immediate past president a vote on the executive committee; a second allowing people to run for president one year sooner than the current bylaws permit; and a third that would change the society’s open election process—a popular vote—to one where candidates for board of directors must be chosen by a nominating committee.

The opposing group of members, which calls itself “Concerned SITE Members,” explained its rationale for voting against these changes in a recent e-mail. About the most debated change--the requirement that future candidates for board of directors be handpicked by the Nominating Committee--it claimed, “This is not in the best interest of this Society, nor is this the democratic process on which the Founders set up this Society. And there is the potential for abuse by a small group of people … to hand select like-minded individuals to serve on the International Board.”

Mahoney disagrees, noting that SITE is the only meeting industry association still using the popular vote method. His committee evaluated how these other groups choose their presidents and boards (Meeting Professionals International, for example, presents an entire slate of candidates to its members) and chose a process “somewhere in the middle that still gives members a choice” of two candidates selected by the nominating committee, as well as any write-in candidates.

SITE Executive Director Brenda Anderson commends Mahoney and his committee for all the research that went into the proposed changes. A far as the dissenters, “Everybody should have a voice, and that’s fine,” she said. “It’s healthy to have this kind of back and forth. But as one member recently said to me, ‘Now, can we just make a decision?’”