NRA Facts & Figures

The last several years, I’ve posted various facts and figures about NRA membership and participation as told through the lens of votes in the board of directors elections. I know a few people find it interesting, but I always wondered if there was really a purpose. It turns out that it did serve a purpose. I learned that one of our endorsed candidates this year actually found the data when he was looking to run, and used it when making plans for his successful campaign.

In that spirit, here’s the latest data & analysis of how NRA members vote (they don’t) and how you can make a difference (it’s easy) if you want to see certain board candidates rise or fall on the ballot.

There was a significant jump in both the number of eligible voting members this year, and the dramatic rise in the corresponding number of ballots cast. This tells me that either NRA is reaching new, more excited members or the number of people taking the plunge into life memberships may be increasing. I wondered whether there was there could be a subtle influence from the tea party efforts to educate their members on how political parties work to take them over, as such lessons could easily be applied to civic organizations like NRA.

Since the large numbers make it harder to see trends, let’s look at the participation rate for the last few years. You can really see that spike. It’s also worth noting that the next largest number was 3 years ago – the last election for nearly the same slate of candidates. Then I realized that the spike was probably predictable if we saw a jump with the same batch. What causes it? Easy, this is a celebrity ballot. Ollie North, Ted Nugent, Susan Howard, Richard Childress, and Karl Malone. That doesn’t include other widely known political names on the ballot like Don Young, Bob Barr, Matt Blunt, and Larry Craig.

One surprise from this year’s election was not just that Joaquin Jackson won, but how well he did (14 of 25). Apparently the current crop of NRA board voters don’t realize that he threw a significant number of gun owners under the bus, or they just don’t care. Alas, that means he has three more years in which to put his foot in his mouth as a board member.

What’s so frustrating about this is that it is so easy to make a difference in an NRA board election because so few people take the time to vote.

“Losing” Candidates Vote Tallies Difference from
Previous Candidate
Donn DiBiasio* 63,817 752
Steven Schreiner 62,710 1,107
Carol Hallett 61,850 860
Kenneth Hanson 61,479 371
Leo Holt 59,666 1,813
Marion Townsend 55,157 4,509

*Elected 76th Director at the meeting. Interestingly, this is the 2nd time he has “lost” and managed to earn a seat for another year.

Just 752 votes determined the “last winner” and “first loser” this year. Last year, it was 725 votes.

If you have a preferred slate of candidates, share them with every voting member you know. Do it quickly after the ballots arrive in your mailbox, or those folks might throw their ballots away. Just like in a political race, a personal endorsement from someone a gun owner knows or respects can carry a lot of weight. In fact, in a race like this where many of the candidates are unknowns, these endorsements make a much bigger impact. It’s why we try to highlight our absolute favorites on the ballot each year. (We vote for more than we list in our endorsements, though usually not for a full slate of 25.)

8 thoughts on “NRA Facts & Figures”

  1. Forgive my ignorance, and feel free to say no.

    Is there a breakdown by state of the returns?
    I wonder how many of the ballets mailed are returned to the post office? Address changes, mistakes, etc., etc.
    Also, I have my feelings that a number of these are not delivered by our trusty Post Office people. 1.5 mailings is a load on the system. Wonder of some are dumped. Does the NRA keep a record of members saying they never received theirs, by state?

    As an old marketing guy, I always keep a close eye on mailings, as they cost a ton of money.

    Last question. Do you think that Internet member voting will happen before 2012 on the NRA site? That would easily skew percentages.

  2. I have no problem answering questions because I’d like to take away the “mystery” of how the NRA works. It’s so easy to get involved, and sometimes you can even get them to change things based on that involvement.

    Is there a breakdown by state of the returns?
    No. I’m sure that NRA could pull the data from their accounting firm that handles the job, but I’m not sure why they would want to. To be honest, I wouldn’t want it available because then you’d have people trying to play the system instead of earning votes. You can make basic assumptions based on NRA memberships though. Pennsylvania and Texas are obviously voter-rich areas just because they have more NRA members. That’s why so many board members join the PA & TX state associations. :)

    I wonder how many of the ballets mailed are returned to the post office?
    In 2010, that number was 702. I wasn’t going to make an updated chart for it until next year since that really falls into the category of knowing how to vote.

    One reason this number is going to be exceptionally low for a mailing of this size is because we’re sending something else – the magazine – to these addresses every single month. We already know when there’s a problem and can make the changes before the ballot goes out.

    Does the NRA keep a record of members saying they never received theirs, by state?
    I’m not aware of any effort to do that, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. I know when quite a few bloggers and other folks didn’t get their ballots last year, there were staff who made an effort to look for trends. I don’t know what came of it, but I know they are open into looking for those kinds of problems.

    Do you think that Internet member voting will happen before 2012 on the NRA site?
    I tend to think this won’t happen anytime soon. The biggest problem will be in transitioning people over to the new technology. NRA members who participate at this level are probably older than the average member. Add in that you would need a 100% reliable voting system that can’t be gamed, and I just don’t see them willing to take risks with that right now.

    On the authentication front, there’s a new reason for invalid ballots that has started to appear in the last two elections – people making photocopies of their ballots and either voting multiple times or giving them to others to vote. It’s still a small number – 2 last year and 3 this year – but last year was the first time I ever saw it as an issue since I started keeping records in 2006. Because of things like that, NRA will be especially sensitive to potential for fraud.

    On the technology front, we’ll have a better idea of the potential for more NRA members to embrace new technology sometime in the next few years. They announced at the board meeting that publications is trying to develop online magazines, and they will ask members to choose one or the other. Though, on the cost argument, it could still be said that even if voting happened through the mail, not having to send magazines every month would likely save so much that it wouldn’t be as big a deal to mail a ballot & bios.

  3. I know this may be an issue that’s impossible to address in real life, but one reason for the low “voter turnout” might be the large number of “outsourced” promotional offers sent out in the NRA’s name. I know I get enough fundraising mailers in the NRA’s name that’ it’s tempting to just throw the things out unread, and I can’t be alone.

  4. Honest question. What is the purpose of electing the board, besides that it is required? I’m an associate member (hey med school is expensive) and so therefore I don’t get a vote.

    It seems that the only time that I hear about voting in NRA elections is when people want to vote against some bonehead or like when Barrett ran. What kind of things can a board member influence or control? I don’t think they’re going to fire Wayne anytime soon.

  5. I believe annual members (is that what you mean by associate member) can vote if they’ve been a member for 5 years.

    Why would the board fire Wayne?

    Big issues for the NRA board are similar to those in any organization – oversight and deelopment and approval of organizational policies and major business strategies. Board members also serve on committees (along with non board members) and help keep the committees moving forward an responsive to board oversight.

  6. No, associate members are different. It’s a $10/year membership (IIRC the price correctly) that doesn’t include a magazine. It’s really great for spouses who may not want a magazine, but want to support NRA. That way one person gets a magazine for the big news & endorsements. The other just gets to say the membership card. They can’t ever vote. (NRA doesn’t really advertise this membership since it’s not as valuable to them because they can’t put quite as much information in your hands without the magazine.)

    However, a little trick to use, Pete, is that when you upgrade to the regular annual membership, ask them to credit you with all of the years as an associate member. They will if you ask (especially if you explain you were in med school), and you’ll get to vote immediately. At least, they used to do this. I can’t make promises, but it’s worth a try.

    Countertop is right – the board is about bigger issues. The committees are really where a little more work is done. For competitive shooters, it’s where the rules are made, new sports are debated, etc. The board also elects the leadership, and they can really drive resources and policy. When Kaine was president, he spent a huge chunk of resources on the failed Free Hunters program. We can debate whether the expanded hunting program that still exists after that was worth that experiment, but he drove that program. (I think the expanded hunting program is worth it, I just think we could have gotten to the same place without the expense of developing the Free Hunters stuff.) As a former president, Sandy Froman really took charge on judicial matters and lead the charge of gun groups opposing Sotomayor, and that has now made the Second Amendment a key question during Supreme Court appointment hearings.

    So the board is relevant. They aren’t in the day-to-day operations, but they are the way for the membership to keep the staff headed in the right direction.

  7. Thank you for the wonderful and informative answer!! 702 is not what I was expecting. My company sends monthly bills and we ain’t that good.

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