The Universal House of Justice

"Founded on a set of unique electoral and consultative principles that are democratic in spirit and method, the Bahá'í administrative order is organized around freely elected governing councils which operate at the local, national, and international levels. This hierarchy devolves decision-making to the lowest practicable level--thereby instituting a unique vehicle for grassroots participation in governance--while at the same time providing a level of coordination and authority that makes possible cooperation on a global scale. Bahá'u'lláh called these governing councils "Houses of Justice.""

Annually, Baha'is in a generally civic region (city, county, whatever the local area uses to organize areas) with at least nine adults hold an election for a Local Spiritual Assembly. Larger regions of Baha'is, whether in Assemblies or not, gather annually as well to elect delegates to participate in the election of the National Assembly of that country. Every 4 years, members of all the national assemblies vote for the members of the Universal House of Justice.

While the specific forms the regions take around the world differ, the general form of Local Assemblies and National Assemblies are universal wherever there are sufficient populations of Baha'is (which is approximately the same as whereever it is not illegal to be a Baha'i.) Thus it is that even in countries where the practical form of government is hardly democratic, in fact the first experience of voting takes place in Baha'i forums, hand in hand with principles that encourage addressing social ills like racism, sexism, and the like.

In addition to these forms there has been a development now applied in many places around the world - an elected form between the level of the Local Assembly and the National Assembly. In the United States this level is called Regional Councils - and here they are elected by the members of the Local Assemblies.

There are appointed positions in the administrative institutions of the Baha'i Faith but the decision making power is in the elected forms. No other forms are allowed within the rules of the Baha'i Faith today - elected institutions with dependent appointed positions.

At the same time, the Baha'i Faith has a highly defined Scripture. There is so much of it that there is little room for division without ignoring the rules and the spirit. So much of the original handwritting is preserved that there is no question of authenticity. Indeed, the only path to harm the process is to be apathetic, while the major work is to achieve what is intended.
I just thought it would be a good point to mention that there are several Unit Conventions to be held soon and that these Conventions vote for delegates to the National Convention we have each year.

The members of the Local Spiritual Assembly also vote annually for Regional bodies in some countries.

Every year the National Convention votes on who is to serve on the National Spiritual Assembly (Nine members) just as we locally around April vote to select the nine members of our Local Spiritual Assemblies... there are about ten thousand of these Local Spiritual Assemblies around the world.

Every five years delegates are sent from each National Spiritual Assembly which numbers around a hundred and eighty and they select who is on the Universal House of Justice.

So from the local to the national and international level this procedure is consistent.

All our voting is done in prayer and without any nominations or partisan groups.

- Art
arthra said:
Every five years

Forgive the error - I thought it was every four years....

arthra said:
All our voting is done in prayer and without any nominations or partisan groups.

Indeed the whole mechanism is very special - no one runs for office, no one endorses anyone or nominates anyone. There are no platforms to endorse or reject. For unit conventions every Baha'i is listed who is of age and in good standing (the vast majority and ussually all the Baha'is of the region.) Basically every Baha'i who can vote can be voted for. The time and place of voting are appointed far ahead of time and published in various means. The host Assembly is often rotated among the membership of the region, and the actual meeting has temporary officers which are then elected for the duration of the convention from among those present to actually run the whole process. There will be several sessions for discussion and messages to be shared. In a session quiet and hallowed with personal prayer, one is enjoined to vote in secret ballot for whoever one's heart and conscience is inclinded towards. The voting process is monitored and secured from tampering - the tellers are publically known and present a report of the election with service and information so that their report is accepted by those assembled for the election. Their report will include many details - (how many voted in person and by absentee vote, if there were any invalid ballots such has a mispelling so bad it could not be defined, etc.... if there was a tie, etc.) Pluraity of vote is the mechanism that singles out the chosen delegate - which is to say the highest vote getter is the chosen one - not by majority vote or absolute unity of vote. Often there are multiple delegates in regions with larger populations, and alternates in case the delegate is indisposed. Almost universally the reports of these elections when reported to the National Assembly for inclusion for the national convention are accepted though occasionally something is amiss and the election may be annuled or canceled and failings addressed as opportunity arises.

Baha'is try to raise these virtuous forms for the awareness of their governmental systems - we counsel non-partisan elections for example. Interestingly, Baha'is in the United States cannot act as vote tellars at public election sites because official presense is limited to appointed members of the major political parties unless they happen to work for the beurocratic agency which is charged with carrying out the election.