October 16th, 2009


Lowering Worldcon Voting Cost, Part 2

A couple of days ago, I posted my proposal to Decouple Voting Costs from Attending Membership Costs at Worldcon. There is a related proposal -- elements of which I admit to having accidentally conflated in the ensuing discussion -- that I think would also help increase participation in the Worldcon and would reduce the number of would-be participants who are balking at the price.

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The current double-payment system is a historical artifact that drives away interested voters unnecessarily. I propose that we allow anyone to cast a site selection ballot by paying the ASM regardless of current-year membership status. For instance, at this past Worldcon, you could have voted on the site of the 2011 Worldcon even if you were not a member of Anticipation. This would have cut the effective start-up cost in half. $45 is still not chicken feed, but it's a whole lot better than about $100.

Yes, you'd have to deal with handling ballots from people who aren't members of the current Worldcon. I think that's manageable. I admit that it would add some complexity, because right now it's pretty easy to validate voter eligibility and prevent duplicate voting. When the potential electorate expands to the entire World, that task is more difficult.

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It is likely that some people will say this will allow "packing" the ballot box. If that means a lot more additional people will actually vote, I don't think that's ballot-box stuffing; it's getting more people involved. If it means actual voter fraud -- voting the cemetery and phone book and that sort of thing -- well, I can't guarantee anything, but the chances seem low. They aren't zero, because we are pretty sure there was at least one attempt to do something similar for a Hugo Award campaign years ago. I do think that the positive benefits of not driving away people who are legitimately interested in voting outweigh the theoretical dangers of someone voting the phone book. Besides, I trust administrators to spot a pattern of improper voting.

Would this be a controversial change? Yes, but I would point out that it doesn't hurt the existing join-every-year members at all. They still can cast their own votes every year, just as they have been doing. But it lowers the entry barrier and makes it easier for someone to join for the first time during the excitement of a bid campaign. Some of those people will end up staying for the long run, like I did. Right now, I think we're causing people to balk at the start-up cost who are never coming back, and I'd like to recapture them into the Worldcon fold.