WSFS Voting Details

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Each year WSFS conducts several votes which all follow the same general process. The votes are, the Hugos, Site Selection of the Worldcon, and membership in the Mark Protection Committee.

Transferable Preferential Ballot[edit]

The Transferable Preferential Ballot (TPB) (sometimes incorrectly called the Australian ballot) is used in all WSFS voting. TPB is designed to make it more likely that widely-acceptable candidates will win over candidates with a smaller but more zealous following.

The basic process is simple: Each voter ranks the available choices (plus "No Award" or "None of the Above") from their most-preferred to their least-preferred, numbering them from 1 to whatever.

When the ballots are counted, first-places votes for each candidate (choice) are counted. If a candidate received a majority of the votes cast, that candidate is the winner. If no candidates gets a majority (which is usually the case for the Hugo Awards, since there are normally six nominees in each category), the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The ballots which listed that candidate first are redistributed according to that voter's second choice. (Ballots with no second choice are discarded.) If a candidate now has a majority of the ballots remaining, that candidate is the winner.

If there is still no winner, the same procedure is followed again: the remaining candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and that candidate's ballots are again distributed among the remaining candidates or discarded according to the voter's next preference, and the remaining candidates are again checked for a majority winner. This cycle continues until there is a majority winner.

The effect of this is that, unlike the more traditional voting systems, if your preferred candidate is eliminated, your preferences among the remaining candidates are still taken into account. A candidate with narrow but enthusiastic support will not win even though that candidate may have the most first-place votes because the larger group of voters who do not like that candidate will not have selected it as a second (or third, or fourth) choice and thus that candidate's vote total will not grow during the elimination rounds.

The process for determining second place is not to look for who is last to be eliminated, but to start over with the ballots which voted for the first-place winner redistributed according to their second-ranked choice and then following the same process to a majority to determine second place. And so forth for third and later places.

Additionally, once the winner is determined, the Hugo administrator counts the voters who preferred No Award to the winner in a one-on-one comparison of all ballots that ranked both the putative winner and No Award. If a majority of the voters who ranked both preferred No Award over the winner, the win is disqualified. (This has never happened, but is in place to prevent a winner from being declared when the electorate is so badly split that most voters would prefer no award to be given than one or more of the choice(s).)

This provision was added after the 1995 NASFiC site Selection where a hoax bid was allowed on the final ballot and split the votes against the winner. Many voters had voted #1 - Hoax Bid, #2 - None of the Above while others had voted #1 - None of the Above and #2 - Hoax Bid, causing None of the Above to be eliminated even though an absolute majority of the voters favored None of the Above over the eventual winner.) See 1995 Worldcon Site Selection.)

If the last two candidates are tied, a tie is declared.

This is all standard practice, and for the Mark Protection Committee elections is all there is to an election. But Site Selection and the Hugos each have additional wrinkles.

Hugo Voting Special Details[edit]

If No Award wins, no Hugo is awarded that year in that category.

Site Selection Special Details[edit]

On Worldcon site selection ballot, the WSFS constitution requires that "No Preference" be one of the choices. Selecting "No Preference" indicates that the voter does not care which bidder wins. Ballots marked "No Preference" are effectively removed from the process and do not count for or against any candidate and do not counts towards the total number of ballots and thus not towards the number needed for a majority and thus a win.

So why have "No Preference"? There are several reasons:

  1. It is normal for voters to get a small discount on their memberships. This allows people who genuinely don't care who among the choices wins to still vote. By listing No Preference as #1, the voter is in effect casting an abstention.
  2. The WSFS constitution allows non-natural-human entities (such as clubs and pet rocks) to cast site selection ballots, but requires that their ballots be cast as "no preference" so as to have no effect on the balloting process.
  3. In a 3-way race, a vote may prefer one of the bidders, but not care who wins if that bidder is eliminated. (E.g., there are three bidders, A, B and C. The voter cares strongly for A, but, if A is eliminated, has no further preference. In that case, the voter might mark the ballot A #1, No Preference #2, and leave B and C unmarked.)

No Preference, by its nature, can never be eliminated, so once a ballot is a No Preference ballot, it drops out of the count. Unlike with No Award, choices listed after No Preference on the ballot are never counted. There is no difference between voting No Preference and simply leaving the rest of the ballot unranked. (But sometimes it feels good to say you don't care.)

Site Selection and None of the Above[edit]

In Site Selection, the No Award choice of the Hugos is called "None of the Above" because it is positioned just below the bidders on the ballot. Otherwise, it's handled the same. (Ironically, when it is voted, it is really a "None of the Below" vote, but nevermind that...)

If None of the Above wins the Site Selection vote, a special WSFS rule kicks in which throws the entire election to the WSFS Business meeting. Additional bidders are allowed to qualify by filing and the BM has the unenviable task of sorting out a right mess, knowing that pretty much anything they decide will annoy a great many people.

This has never happened. It's never come close to happening. But fans who enjoy watching trainwrecks have been known to hope.


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