DisCon III Business Meeting Keeps Lodestar, Best Series; Passes Controversial Resolution About Site Selection

The DisCon III business meeting today voted to retain the Lodestar Award and Best Series Hugo category. Both were up for a re-ratification vote before being permanently added to the WSFS Constitution.

The Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book passed by an “easy majority”.  

The Best Series Hugo category passed in a close vote.

 The meeting also passed a controversial resolution advising the Site Selection administrator that he reclassify as “No Preference” votes those ballots lacking any of four pieces of information specified in the motion.

The motion was signed by two leaders of the Winnipeg in 2023 bid, bid chair Terry Fong, and vice-chair Jannie Shea.

Short Title: Required Site Selection Information

Resolved, That it is the sense of the WSFS Business Meeting that any Site Selection ballot that does not contain a Membership Number, Name, Signature, and Address that meets the country of origin’s requirements should be counted as “No Preference.”

When it came to the floor, however, Site Selection administrator Tim Szczesuil said he was requesting the meeting’s guidance. He pointed to the relevant part of the WSFS Constitution, rule 4.4.1, and said it was “somewhat ambiguous with respect to what is required of the voter.” The rule reads —

4.4.1: Site-selection ballots shall include name, signature, address, and membership-number spaces to be filled in by the voter. Each site-selection ballot shall list the options “None of the Above” and “No Preference” and provide for write-in votes, after the bidders and with equal prominence. The supporting membership rate shall be listed on all site-selection ballots.

“The way it, to me, it could be read either as the ballot is required to have four items – I think it’s the name, the address, the signature, and the member number. Or it could be that the member has to include that information on the ballot.”

Potentially, the resolution can lead to ballots lacking any of the four items not having their preference for Chengdu or Winnipeg counted toward determining the winner.

Ben Yalow spoke against the resolution, saying he considered the rule “incredibly clear” that it was about the spaces for certain information which must be on the ballot, not what the voter must fill in.

The business meeting chair Don Eastlake turned over the meeting to another officer so he could go to the floor and speak in favor of the resolution, “I do not believe we should allow anonymous or semi-anonymous people who don’t provide enough information or don’t provide a name or haven’t signed [the ballot] to affect site selection…” Dave McCarty’s comment in support of the motion was that address information is needed “to be able to tell if they are real people.”

The site selection validation process doesn’t ever take time to test voters’ residence/mail address information and make a judgment about it. The two critical factors are that the voter must have a membership in the current Worldcon, and that the payment of the site selection voting fee must clear. However, a person could do everything required to become a member of the current Worldcon, DisCon III, and still fail a 2023 site selection voting requirement. For example, Eastlake pointed out a past practice that people who fail to sign their ballots do not get their votes counted, although they still get a supporting membership in the new convention.  

The business meeting passed the resolution 47-30. Because it is a resolution, it is not binding. However, since he requested it, File 770 has asked Site Selection administrator Tim Szczesuil to comment how he will apply the resolution.

OTHER BUSINESS. Kevin Standlee reports on his LiveJournal that the meeting ratified all nine of the constitutional amendments passed on from last year’s Worldcon. “These amendments were initially passed in Ireland, then technically rejected and then re-passed in New Zealand, in order to evade the problem that hardly any WSFS members could actually get to the meeting in Wellington.”

The nine items are E.3 to E.11 in the business meeting Agenda.

117 thoughts on “DisCon III Business Meeting Keeps Lodestar, Best Series; Passes Controversial Resolution About Site Selection

  1. Jo Van Ekeren said:
    But bidcom members need to recognise that with the advent of electronic registration and the ability to receive all Worldcon publications electronically, the days of Worldcons being able to verify that a Worldcon member is a “natural person” are long gone.

    and

    The “But how else can we ensure that they’re not bogus double voters?” ship sailed a long time ago, and it’s never coming back.

    That actually has very little to do with why bidcom members (as well as regular members who vote in site selection) don’t trust electronic voting. They want to be sure that their vote is secret and that no one can know how they actually voted. Electronic voting (that a Worldcon can afford) does not yet provide that level of anonymity.

    I can cite numerous examples of why people would not want others to know how they voted. For example – someone voting against the bid they are on the committee for, because they don’t think the committee will do a good job running the convention; someone voting against it because their spouse is going to be chair, and they don’t want a divorce over the stress of running the con; and many others.

  2. That actually has very little to do with why bidcom members (as well as regular members who vote in site selection) don’t trust electronic voting. They want to be sure that their vote is secret and that no one can know how they actually voted. Electronic voting (that a Worldcon can afford) does not yet provide that level of anonymity.

    Yes it does. In the 15 years I’ve been participating in the Hugos electronically I’ve never heard of anyone’s votes being revealed.

  3. @Stacey: The clunky electronic-ish voting we do now already has no guarantee of who can see what information. If we had true electronic voting, it could actually be made more private/secure. Right now, I e-mail a PDF . . . HAHAHAHAHA that is in now way any guarantee that it’s not e-mailed to all bid chairs or posted to Twitter.

    No, Worldcon really does need to do true electronic site selection voting. This PDF thing is laughable.

  4. The answer might be to separate voting from the con committee.
    A couple of sports clubs I’m in contract their leadership elections out to a third party (generally a UK body the Electoral Reform Society) which keeps everything at arms length. It would have the advantage as well of keeping everything consistent.
    Sometimes the WorldCon fetish for every con getting to make its own decisions about how to do things is kind of pointless. And probably (given need for development and testing) not especially cost effective either.

  5. Brad Templeton on December 18, 2021 at 2:52 pm said:

    Johan Anglemark on December 18, 2021 at 6:49 am said:
    @Cassy, it does not. It will be counted as No Preference.

    This may have been done but is quite at odds with normal legal practice. There is nothing magic about “writing your signature with a pen in cursive” in the law.

    To be perfectly honest, I cannot recall the issue as having come up. As was pointed out above, the Signature field isn’t a fillable field, I’m not sure Cassy remembers correctly. I based my statement on a discussion we had when we gave the directive that any marking whatsoever with a pen in that field counts as a legal signature. (Moreover, I assume the legality of a printed signature might vary with the jurisdiction; I have never worked in site selection in the US.) It is an interesting point that should probably be clarified for the future if we don’t go over to online site selection soon, but it has probably never been a problem in reality.

  6. Jo Van Ekeren:

    While the DisCon III announcement regarding the filing of the Winnipeg bid was worded as though it was “allowed” as a result of noblesse oblige on their part, the only thing DisCon III actually did was follow the rules of the WSFS Constitution, as they were required to do.

    Yes, I had the impression that one of the reasons Winnipeg may have decided to go ahead and bid was to press this issue — that DisCon III should have opened bidding back up according to the established rules.

  7. Johan Anglemark:

    To be perfectly honest, I cannot recall the issue as having come up. As was pointed out above, the Signature field isn’t a fillable field, I’m not sure Cassy remembers correctly. I based my statement on a discussion we had when we gave the directive that any marking whatsoever with a pen in that field counts as a legal signature. (Moreover, I assume the legality of a printed signature might vary with the jurisdiction; I have never worked in site selection in the US.) It is an interesting point that should probably be clarified for the future if we don’t go over to online site selection soon, but it has probably never been a problem in reality.

    In some browsers (or programs), you can still add text to a pdf even if it isn’t a fillable field. I think that should be counted as “endorsed” on these ballots — not much different than making some kind of scribble there. I put my signature in with a stylus so I wouldn’t have to print and scan — I doubt anyone can tell the difference through email. A few people have writing so neat that you might be hard pressed to tell it apart from one of those cursive fonts!

  8. Cassy B. on December 18, 2021 at 6:46 am said:

    I’m still not clear if my vote even counts, because I typed the “signature” in a handwriting font in the form-fillable .pdf I sent back.

    Anyone know if that counts as a signature for voting purposes?

    I’m pretty sure that such ballots were counted. Only those that left the field completely blank were no-preferenced, which is consistent practice that has been followed in all site selection elections that I have personally observed.

    rcade on December 18, 2021 at 9:01 pm said:

    Yes it does. In the 15 years I’ve been participating in the Hugos electronically I’ve never heard of anyone’s votes being revealed.

    That is true, but it mainly comes down to restraint on the individuals working on the elections. And for all of those here who apparently would like to have me summarily executed for Crimes Against Fandom, I’ll note that I not only did not look at how anyone voted, I studiously tried to look away when people voting in person at site selection on the first day of the convention effectively waved their marked-up site selection ballots in my face.

    (I was working at the station after the point where you had been validated as an eligible voter and had paid the Advance Supporting Membership fee. My job was the separate the vote portion from the voter info portion. At that point, you as the voter could then fill it out privately if you choose to do so and then put it in the box. Many people didn’t bother to wait to have their ballot separated, nor did they fold their voting section to make it more difficult to see how they voted. Lots of them laughed at me when I told them that they should be guarding the secrecy of their ballots.

    But this is true of both the Hugo Awards and Site Selection. The Administrators can see how people vote.

    Johan Anglemark on December 19, 2021 at 1:41 am said:

    As was pointed out above, the Signature field isn’t a fillable field,…

    And Adobe Reader, if you click on the button at the top of the screen (at least on my copy), gives you a signature tool.

    WSFS has tended to assume that every member is acting in good faith. Maybe that’s not a good assumption anymore.

  9. WSFS has tended to assume that every member is acting in good faith. Maybe that’s not a good assumption anymore.

    As far as I can see nothing has changed that assumption. What I would say has happened is that China has prospered economically and built up a huge, educated middle class. With that comes, believe it or not, science fiction fans. And China is a huge country, with a huge population. If conrunners in China want to run a Worldcon, there is very little we can do to stop them, as this is a numbers game and they outnumber us.

    If we think this was an unfortunate outcome, and want a way of stopping huge foreign fandoms from getting Worldcon for whatever reason (say that we think they are too inexperienced, that the site is inaccessible to us, or that their country has an atrocious human rights record), we would need some kind of 20% rule, along the lines of TAFF. That is, only if a bid gets at least 20% of the votes cast by voters in the country of the current Worldcon, and at least 20% of the votes cast by voters in the country of the bid, can it win. Or some other mechanism to stop a bid supported by superior numbers.

  10. If conrunners in China want to run a Worldcon, there is very little we can do to stop them, as this is a numbers game and they outnumber us.

    Any country could outnumber us if it was important enough to the fans there (or the government). Would bogarting a Worldcon have continuing value for a country outside of the usual places where the attendees and Hugo works come from?

    Let’s say the people of Freedonia, where they speak primarily Freedish, decide to permanently muster 3,000 voters and rotate the con between the towns of Rufus, Pinky and Chicholini (as you know they are 500.5 miles apart). But this either means keeping the long-standing fandom engaged by presenting a Worldcon and Hugos that we expect or turning it into one that better appeals to their people. The more they do the latter, the more it becomes an event of national instead of international appeal.

    I think the most likely scenario is that countries like Freedonia enjoy the benefits of hosting Worldcon as a one-off in the occasional decade and it continues to be a salute to all nations but mostly America.

  11. I mentioned in a comment to the Friday BM video on YouTube that this thread was widely critical of the resolution, and the comment was deleted. I mentioned this thread again in a second comment with the mildest possible language “The File770 thread about the voting validation resolution is worth reading.” We shall see if it stands.

  12. John Bray on December 19, 2021 at 9:02 am said:

    I mentioned in a comment to the Friday BM video on YouTube that this thread was widely critical of the resolution, and the comment was deleted.

    I can only assume that the YouTube commenting algorithm didn’t like it, because I didn’t delete any YT comments, and I’m the lead member of the team that manages that channel. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had much time to monitor comments. We do enable the comment bot in those videos.

  13. Two things that struck me as odd (this is my first WorldCon)

    ONE: ALL votes are ‘purchased’ votes and no one says a successful bid in a popular Western city was bought. You can hear the racist undertones in the talk of certain ‘kinds of people’ folks are unwilling to trust. I am very disappointed in WSFS.

    TWO: My day job is as a database administrator and all this bitching about incomplete addresses I’ve not heard a single person claim knowledge of HOW Chinese addresses are formatted.

    Even as a newcomer, I can see that there is a desperate need for an International Coordinator with the responsibility of researching host countries and helping standardize concepts and adapt communications to help facilitate this stuff.

    Lastly, I’d like to say, for anyone who feels like a Chengdu con won’t feel like their con – we are science fiction fans and once upon a time Star Wars wasn’t our film yet. Maybe you’ll get to China and discover your next undying love.

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