Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Changing the Hugo Electorate: The Spectrum of Changes

Attempting to restore relatively impartial WSFS Business Meeting Chair hat. I'm human, and if I'm on anyone's "side" in the ongoing saga of Puppygate, it is The Hugo Awards' side, attempting to work against anything that I see that harms the Awards, or if there are nothing but bad choices, to minimize the harm if possible.

Over at Making Light (which I know immediately brands me as an Evil Social Justice Warrior interesting in killing baby dogs and Enslaving All of Fandom, but I can't stop other people from hallucinating) is a fascinating discussion about voting systems with guest poster Bruce Schneier. Right up front are the two main points, which I find quite compelling (emphasis mine):

  1. I think the best choice would be to do nothing. It’s not at all obvious that this is anything other than a temporary aberration, and that any fixes won’t be subject to a different set of abuses and need to be fixed again. I think the worst situation would be a series of rule changes in a continuous effort to stave off different abuses. I don’t think highly of a bureaucracy that tinkers with election rules until it gets the results it wants.

  2. If we choose to ignore (1), the second-best choice is to modify the electorate. The problem isn’t the rules of the vote; the problem is that a voting bloc was able to recruit voters from outside the usual community. Trying to fix that problem by changing the voting rules is very difficult, and will have all sorts of unintended consequences.

(Note that "do nothing" above means "don't fiddle with the rules; let the members vote using the existing system as it's written." It most definitely does not mean "throw away your final Hugo ballot.")

There are many, many proposals being tossed around. As of the time I write this, the only one that's been officially submitted is the "4/6" proposal that reduces nominations to 4 per category per member and increases the number of finalists in each category to 6. Note that any variation on this can be and if I can manage it will be dealt with as amendments to the numbers currently penciled in as 4 and 6. This post is not about procedural changes like this. What I want to discuss here, in response to a question received in e-mail, is changing the electorate, albeit by changing who can vote.

I think we can consider changes that tackle only the "who can vote" issue (as opposed to "how can you vote," of which 4/6 is the first entry in the field) along a spectrum of changes:

  1. Expand the Electorate/Reduce the Cost: On the theory that more voters means it's hard for voting slates to game the system and that More Is Always Better, we have proposals that want to make it easier to nominate for the Hugo Awards by creating a less-expensive Hugo Nominating Only class of membership. (There are different names for this and complications, but they all fall into this category IMO.) The cost of this HNO membership would be a number less than the current cost of a Supporting membership (currently $40 this year; $50 next year). As the figure in the blank goes down, goes the theory, the number of people voting goes up. Different people have proposed different costs for this, going all the way down to zero, i.e. "It shouldn't cost anything at all to vote in a fan-sourced award."

  2. Do Nothing to the Electorate: This means leave the membership rules unchanged. Supporting and Attending members of the three-year spectrum (last year, this year, and next year) would continue to be allowed to nominate for the Hugo Awards.

  3. Restrict the Electorate/Increase the Cost: Some say that if you make it more expensive to nominate, you'll discourage voters interested in what some perceive to be "wrecking" behavior. There are multiple mechanisms suggested for this, including removing the last year/next year group of voters (thus only the current Worldcon's members of any voting class could nominate), raising the cost of the existing class of supporting memberships, or only permitting attending members of the three-year spread (or maybe only the current Worldcon) to nominate. The cost to vote here thus can start at the existing $40 Supporting membership price and extend upward to infinity.

The intriguing thing to me is that you can find lots of support for all of these proposals and their many variations. I have no idea which proposals will actually make it to the Business Meeting. There's a process for submitting them, and a deadline (two weeks before the first BM) by which proposals must be submitted. It's quite likely that there will be multiple overlapping and conflicting proposals, which will make the Preliminary Business Meeting very interesting as we try to hash out conflicts and boil things down to single issues that can be debated and voted at the subsequent meetings.

There is nothing procedurally wrong with any of these proposals. They all have supporters, and only a fully-realized orderly debate and fair vote of the attending members of WSFS who participate can resolve what is at its heart a subjective opinion. I will remind people of what I wrote a couple of days ago about "fairness" and "winning" not being synonyms. I can guarantee that I'll try to give you a fair process. I can't guarantee that you'll get your way, and I can guarantee that there will be many people who do not get their way.
Tags: business meeting, worldcon, wsfs

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