With SAG’s election contest heating up, the guild has promised it will keep confidential how individual members vote in its polling on the guild’s contract stalemate with the majors.

In a statement issued Friday, SAG national exec director Doug Allen pledged that “the name of any responding member is to be kept confidential and is not to be used for any purpose.”

Allen’s statement comes amid a heated election for seats on the SAG national board. In a letter sent Friday to Allen and SAG president Alan Rosenberg, leaders of the upstart Unite for Strength slate questioned how the polling is being conducted.

“As you know, secret balloting is a bedrock principle of union democracy,” said the missive, signed by Adam Arkin, Ned Vaughn and Kate Walsh. “When members are polled in either a binding or advisory manner, they expect their responses to be protected by anonymity. Coding their responses in a way that can identify how each member voted is highly unorthodox.”

Unite for Strength raised the confidentiality issue in the wake of SAG’s recent mailing of a 12-page information packet to its 120,000 members on the guild’s refusal to accept the final offer from the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. The mailing included a postcard poll asking members whether SAG leaders should accept the offer or “fight” for a better deal.

“The poll using the response card is not a ballot election or a ratification or referendum vote,” Allen said. “It is intended to be a sampling of member views on the AMPTP proposal in the TV/theatrical contract negotiations, a sampling that will help inform me and the negotiating committee.”

Allen noted that the response cards contain a bar code that’s scanned to determine that they are authentic, with Integrity Voting Systems tabulating the results of the poll. He also said another reason for the unique bar code is to permit demographic analysis of the response.

“Any reports generated will not contain any information by name or by which option an individual member chose on the response card or even by which individuals sent a card back,” he added. “We promised the membership that if they responded, their identities would be kept confidential, and we will keep that commitment.”

Arkin, Vaughn and Walsh also said the “contract update” provides little in the way of an update, contending that there has been no progress since the AMPTP made their final offer on June 30.

“That raises questions about why this mailer — which presents the work of the leadership in very positive terms — was sent during an election in which members of the leadership are running,” the Unite for Strength statement said. “We believe SAG members deserve to know why this mailing was timed in the middle of the board election and why their votes on the response card are identifiable by name.”

Vaughn said subsequently that Allen’s response was insufficient, complaining that the mailer carries the risk of influencing the election and suggesting that it should have been sent out before or after the election, which concludes Sept. 18.

The current national board is controlled by the Membership First faction, which has a narrow majority and has insisted that SAG needs to take an aggressive bargaining stance. Unite for Strength has faulted that approach as counterproductive and focused on the need to merge SAG with AFTRA.

SAG has continued to insist the informal negotiations are continuing, including that assertion in the mailer. The AMPTP has denied that any talks are taking place and that it’s not revising the final offer, made as the feature-primetime contract expired.

SAG members continue to work under terms and conditions of the expired contract. The two sides last met in a formal meeting on July 16.