A Worldcon Election in 2015

Kevin Standlee has an interesting article at File 770 on the future of Worldcon governance https://file770.com/guest-post-standlee-on-the-future-of-worldcon-governance/

There is a lot to the post but the guts of his idea is to replace the Business Meeting with a representative committee that would pass initial rule changes. The ratification of those changes would happen in the following year and would be done by a vote of members alongside the Hugo Awards.

The committee would, he suggests, have 21 members serving three-year terms with 7 members elected each year. In the comments, Nicholas Whyte suggests that Single Transferable Vote (STV) would be the most appropriate voting system to use to elect the representatives – which I think makes sense.

So, an obvious question to ask would be what would have happened if this system was in place back in 2015 when the Hugo Awards were beset by slates? It is a counterfactual question on many levels as the committee didn’t exist then and we’ve no idea if the Sad or Rabid puppies would have had any interest in standing for election.

Still, let’s assume the committee did exist and was due to elect 7 members and both the Sad and Rabid Puppies wanted to have members on that committee. Let’s also assume the election took place during the main Hugo Award voting when everybody was paying attention.

We still don’t know how people would have voted but we do have voting stats ( https://www.thehugoawards.org/content/pdf/2015HugoStatistics.pdf ) on the Hugo’s themselves including how preferences were distributed. Now, the Hugos use IRV – instant run-off voting which is a preference system for when you have one winner. That’s different from STV which is for multiple winners but it gives us a way of looking at what might have happened.

The key to understanding STV is the idea of a quota. The quota is the number of votes a candidate needs to be elected. The basic quota (or Hare quota) is simply the total number of votes divided by the number of people to be elected. For example if 5 slots need to be filled and 100 people voted, then each slot needs 20 votes. In actual elections, other quotas are used because not all voters fill in all their preferences but the Hare quota is the easiest to understand.

In the proposed Worldcon committee, each year 7 members would be elected. If 100 people then the quota would be 100/7=~14.3 or 14%. A candidate who got more than 14% of the 1st preferences gets elected in round 1. There surplus votes they got over the quota than get distributed in the second round. If no candidate gets above the quota in a round, then the lowest ranked candidate gets eliminated.

With the 2015 Hugo Awards, with some exceptions, voting was very partisan. In Best Novella, 5,337 people voted. 3,495 voted No Award and 1,842 voted for Sad/Rabid slated works. If these were the votes in an STV election with 7 candidates then the quota would be 5,337/7= ~762. If we take No Award to be anti-puppy votes, that was proportionally enough to win 4.5 of 7 seats. The Sad/Puppy vote would be enough to win 2.5 seats.

In the other categories the pattern is similar…up to a point. Where there were slated works/finalists with credible reputations beyond the slate, the proportion shifts. For example, in the editor categories No Award won, but Mike Resnick (short form) and Toni Weiskopf (long form) pulled in more votes proportionally than other slated candidates. If we used Best Editor Long Form as the model, then the split is close to even (4,907 votes, 2,496 for No Award ~51%).

In other words, depending on the credibility of the candidates they might have put forward, the combined Sad/Rabid vote would have managed between 2-4 out of 7 seats. Whether they would have bothered is another question — niether group showed much interest in the business meeting.

What if people were more taken by surprise? I.e. what if it was more like the 2015 nomination stage? That’s harder to tell because the 2015 nomination voting numbers are less detailed. However, in most categories at least a third of the voters voted for at least one of the Puppy slate. So still probably between 2 and 3 candidates.

So, if we take 2015 as an extreme, the proposed committee would be OK for the time being.


One response to “A Worldcon Election in 2015”

  1. I’ve been on the mailing list of the Center for Election Science since the Debarkle, and they are big on trying to get Approval Voting enacted everywhere. I’ve just left a comment on that thread suggesting it: to my admittedly layman’s eye, it makes more sense to use than any kind of transferrable-vote scheme.


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