April 29th, 2021

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Winnipeg to be on 2023 Ballot, but Constitutional Questions Still Open

DisCon III today announced that Winnipeg will be on the 2023 Site Selection ballot, but phrased it as them using their "discretion as the administering convention" to allow it, rather than it being the clear meaning of the WSFS Constitution. In addition, they continue to assert that the previously announced February deadline still stands, and presumably they will consider any additional bids on a case-by-case basis. (At one point I thought that there might be other bids percolating out there, but it turns out that this may have been people who had caught wind of Winnipeg's plans and were asking me questions about how the rules work.)

Now of course I think this is the right decision, but I also think that it's for the wrong reason. No Worldcon committee should have "discretion" about allowing any properly-filed bids onto the ballot if they meet all of the technical requirements and are filed at least 180 days prior to the official opening of the convention. By claiming that they do have such discretion, DisCon III sets a dangerous precedent that says that a Worldcon committee can set aside any provision of the WSFS Constitution they find inconvenient at any time. Note that I'm not talking about how the Hugo Awards ceremony is staged or the Hugo Voter Packet is composed or who the Guests of Honor are — all of those things are discretionary matters under Section 1.6 of the WSFS Constitution, and the Worldcon committee is free to arrange those things as they see fit.

Worldcons really have very few things that are regulated. Why should it be so difficult for them to stick to the rules for that handful of things they're required to do?

It is of course because I've been so outspoken about these matters that I will recuse myself from my head-table position during Site Selection business and if any legislation comes before the meeting regarding Section 4.6.3 (the 180-day rule). I have, however, offered to assist anyone who wants to change the filing deadline compose such changes in the correct form. Examples of changes that some people might want to make to the filing deadline are:

  • Close of the previous Worldcon. This was the rule prior to 1993. It was changed to 180 days before the administering Worldcon in 1991-92 and first applied to the 1996 Site Selection election administered by the 1993 Worldcon under my watch as WSFS division manager.

  • End of the calendar year prior to the Worldcon administering the site selection election. This would make the deadline a hard-coded date (for example, it would have been December 31, 2020 if in effect this election cycle), rather than setting it relative to the date of the Worldcon running the election.


Both of the above changes (assuming that Chengdu and Memphis filed by those deadlines) would have excluded Winnipeg from the ballot if they had chosen to run, although Winnipeg would have been eligible to run as a write-in bid and could win the election as one. Ineligible bids and "hoax bids" that don't file papers get reported in the official count, but because they're not eligible, they can't win the election. Should no eligible bid (including filed write-in bids) poll enough votes after the first round, votes for ineligible bids would be eliminated and should any of those ballots have additional preferences, they would be redistributed accordingly.

By the way, as one of the editors of the Worldcon web site, I also updated it to include the latest news about the bids. I tried to make the news post as neutral as I could, without editorializing about the decision.