Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Hugo Awards: Why Not IRV/STV at First Round?

I was asked via Twitter yesterday why we don't use STV (Single Transferable Vote), which I think of as IRV (Instant Runoff Voting), i.e. the system we use on the final ballot for the Hugo Awards, for the initial nominating stage for the Hugo Awards. The short answer is that nobody has seriously proposed it to the Business Meeting, and as a way of keeping unrepresentative minorities from dominating the process, it wouldn't work anyhow.

I'm unsure how one would actually implement IRV on the nominations. Possibly you would weight your nominations so that the work you nominated 1 had more weight than 2, which would be worth more than 3, etc. If anyone thinks "why not just put all of the nominations that anyone makes online and let people rank them all?" consider that there are hundreds of works being nominated at this stage. Possibly many people are unaware of this. Trying to rank 500 or more works is unworkable.

Besides the practical impossibility of ranking every possible nomination, there is the matter that any free-form nominations (that is, any voter can nominate anything) can be "gamed" by a disciplined minority if the overall pool of voters spreads their votes as broadly as Hugo Award voters tend to do. (I've seen estimates that we would need 40,000 members voting to overcome the actions of a 200-to-400-person disciplined "party." Thus the oft-stated claim that "just increase the total voters and the problems go away," isn't really true, unless you really think that setting up competing political parties is a good idea.) Sure, each individual voter could weight their own nominations in a first-ballot STV/IRV system, but a group of 20% of the voters who coordinate their actions will almost certainly still dominate the entire process as long as the remaining 80% vote "naturally" by their own preferences. That's why two of the proposals I've written up recently (3-Stage Voting and Double Nominations) introduce a second round where only the Top 15 candidates from the first round compete. This concentrates attention on a much more manageable group of candidates where it seems far less likely that an minority of the members could unduly influence the results.

It's probably because most people who have given much thought to it realize that STV/IRV on the nomination ballot doesn't work that nobody has bothered proposing it to the Business Meeting. But in general, the practical answer to "why hasn't WSFS [changed the rules in way I've just proposed]?" usually comes down to one of two things:
  1. Nobody has actually written it up and proposed it to the Business Meeting

  2. Someone did propose it, but the members of WSFS rejected it

I know I'm a broken record to those of you who have been around a long time, but WSFS doesn't have a Board of Directors who you lobby to make the changes you want. If you want to change the rules, you have to come and submit the changes yourself, and you have to convince the other members attending the Business Meeting two years in a row that your changes are good. No proxies, no representatives, just you and everyone else who shows up.

I've never said that making changes to the WSFS rules is easy, just that it's open to any member willing to make the effort. In theory, you don't even have to show up in person (non-attending members can submit motions; they just can't vote on them), although in practice, failure to appear tends to undermine your chances of success.
Tags: business meeting, hugo awards, wsfs
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