Standlee Reports Number of 2023 Site Selection Ballots Validated [Redacted]

[Kevin Standlee was one of Winnipeg’s representatives at the 2023 Worldcon Site Selection vote validation, and he has sent the following information to File 770 as well as posting it to his Livejournal. These figures represent the ballots cast before on-site voting begins today at DisCon III. However, Standlee has since responded to comments on his blog that for reasons “not every ballot was tallied in the country count” he did, so the totals could actually be higher.]

Update 12/15/2021 7:56 p.m. Pacific. Kevin Standlee writes:

Mary Robinette Kowal has fired me as WSFS Business Meeting Chair, and the Winnipeg in 2023 bid committee has released me from the committee. I appear to have acted precipitously and without proper consultation with my management in either my Worldcon or Bid connections. The fault for those decisions was mine and mine alone.

Mary Robinette has asked me to ask you to remove the votes-per-country information and other voter-count information. I told her that I have no control over what you do, but that I would send the request to you.

File 770 has redacted the site selection voting statistics and country table from the post.

By Kevin Standlee: Validating advance site selection ballots took about 10-1/2 hours (from 3 PM Tuesday to 1:30 AM Wednesday). My count shows that we validated [redacted] ballots, of which [redacted] were from China, [redacted] were from the USA, [redacted] from Canada, [redacted] from the UK, and the remainder from other countries.

I was one of Winnipeg’s two representatives at Tuesday’s advance ballot validation. Two people from the Chengdu bid were present as well. Initially, the bidders were doing most of the validation, but as the day wore on and Site Selection drafted in more staff to do validation in multiple “streams,” those of us from the bids were mostly watching the DisCon III team doing the work of checking ballots to confirm that they were from registered members and that they had a valid voting token. (That means that they had paid the Advance Supporting Membership Voting Fee.)

At one point, Site Selection Administrator Tim Szczesuil quoted a figure of [redacted] ballots received; however, as the day wore on, it became clear that there were hundreds of duplicate ballots cast by many members from all around the world, as people submitted their ballots multiple times, probably because they were worried that their ballots had not been received. This did slow down the validation process considerably, because we had to identify duplicates and cull them out of the count.

The Winnipeg bid partially asserted our right under WSFS Constitution section 4.5.1 to extract information from the voter data, but only the country from which the ballot was cast. (We had the right to copy all voter details, but did not assert it.) In practice, this meant that after ballots were validated, we ticked off the country from where they came. This does mean that we might have under-counted.

The following table is what I got. It does not include a small number of ballots that have issues such as we can’t read enough information on the ballot to confirm the voter’s identity and other mechanical problems. Tim Szczesuil says he will make initial rulings on these ballots on Wednesday.

[Table redacted]

Again, the figure of more than [redacted] came from the count of ballots received, and that included a huge number of duplicates that were culled from the final count. We did have to look at all of them, however, which means that we managed to work through the total number of advance ballots more quickly that we did for the 2,107 ballots cast in 1991 in Chicago.

The ballots were folded in such a way that those of us doing the validation could not see how the voter cast their ballots. The only exception were the unsigned ballots, where one of the Administrators opened the ballot and marked it as No Preference, per the rules. I do not have a count of how many such ballots were so marked.

The Winnipeg committee asked the Administrators to not separate the voter information from their ballots until after the adjournment of the Friday WSFS Business Meeting. There are potential issues with many ballots that may need to be adjudicated by the Business Meeting before then. (Of course, I will recuse myself from any Site Selection business that comes before the meeting.)

I initially thought we would have broken the total votes record set in 2015 already, but after eliminating all of those duplicates, we’re not there yet; however, there is still three days of on-site voting to come.

86 thoughts on “Standlee Reports Number of 2023 Site Selection Ballots Validated [Redacted]

  1. Oh, hell. Chengdu it will be. I hope the people cheering Chengdu on will be happy with the WorldCon bought and paid for by the Chinese government, run under Chinese restrictions.

  2. Look forward to a Hugo Ceremony in which between one to all of the related work and short form dramatic presentation nominees that have titles that cannot be read aloud at the con…

  3. JJ: Presumably the rest bought DisCon III supporting memberships at the same time they sent in their site selection payment and vote. This has long been an option for voters.

  4. So 1,100 people from China bought memberships in the last week? That’s some impressive sandbagging.

  5. Yes. I figure that’s 1,100 memberships bought by people told to by the Chinese government.

    And yes, I am judging every one of the fans that took a free vacation and talked up the Chengdu bid, and made it look respectable.

  6. JJ: Leave the namecalling aside, would you? They turned their voters out.

    Looking at the December 7 membership numbers as you did and comparing them with Kevin’s country totals, it’s apparent not too many people cared whether Winnipeg won. Canada had 202 attending and supporting members — but only 48 site selection voters. The UK had 210 attending and supporting — only 42 site selection voters. Finland — 45 attending and supporting, 13 site selection voters. The U.S., 2944 attending and supporting, 224 site selection voters. (And of course, I’m only hypothetically considering that people from some of these places would be prone to vote for a Canadian bid — doubtless some of them actually voted for Chengdu, too.)

  7. Oh well, I would like to go to China eventually but….

    This is not a great time. I just hope it does not wreck Worldcon by being a government enterprise.

  8. Mike Glyer: it’s apparent not too many people cared whether Winnipeg won

    Yes, the amount of apathy on the part of this year’s members is certainly disappointing, to say the least.

  9. Linda Robinett: I just hope it does not wreck Worldcon by being a government enterprise.

    They’ve planned for 100,000 attendees. I think it will be more like SDCC than like Worldcon.

  10. No shade to the Winnipeg bid, and I know some people have legitimate reasons for their fierce “anywhere but Chengdu” stance. But personally I hope Chengdu get it! We’ve had 62ish Worldcons in North America, and only one in Asia. Chinese fandom is massive and it would be great to cultivate global connections.

    The tone around the Chengdu bid from some UK and US fans has been really disappointing, to say the least. Have any previous site selection contests been characterised by so much disinformation, unsubstantiated rumours, conspiracy thinking, concern trolling, and double standards? I feel like I’ve been hearing it for years, and now I wish I’d been more active calling it out in the past. (Genuine question — has it ever got this ugly in the past?)

  11. If I were a Chinese expat I would not go…as the current government does not seem to have any respect for one’s naturalized status. Of course, since there seems to be a frighteningly high chance of something that might as well be called WWIII breaking out, let alone another plague, this may all be irrelevant.

  12. As for where the hostility comes from, there are the small matters of the political crackdown in Hong Kong, the military brinkmanship over Taiwan, and the small issue of the Uygur genocide.

  13. Jo Lindsay Walton: Why, yes, it has gotten this ugly in the past! Several times. It’s a history that needs to be overcome.

  14. Well, the pixels of the file are strange and they’re proud of where they came, well you’re talking about China scroll

    Like Jo Lindsay Walton, I also think a Chinese worldcon is an opportunity. The reXime is not the nation. The Chinese people have forded more turbulent waters in their long history.

  15. Chengdu have been extremely active on social media last week, resulting in the late surge in numbers from what Discon reported some time back. The lateness,and muddle over multiple submissions suggests to me its all a genuine grassroots desire from Chinese fans. Any organisation trying to buy the votes would have acted sooner and more cleanly.

  16. Tony Xia, the chair of the Chengdu, bid is also very active on the Discon III Discord and is apparently running a last minute “Get out the vote” campaign. China is a huge country with one billion people and lots of SFF fans, so the numbers are not that unlikely.

    Also, site selection voting is still going on on site.

  17. I doubt the government would need to buy or persuade people to buy votes when there’s a very large and engaged fandom that have been working on the bid since at least 2015, only a small usual voting pool, and not much excitement around the competing bid.

  18. Worth noting here, I guess (if I manage to get a comment through):

    [Update, 12/15 16:15: Although I contend that the WSFS Constitution takes precedence over the instructions from any Worldcon committee, I have deferred to DisCon III Chair Mary Robinette Kowall’s request to remove the individual country counts.]

  19. The Chengdu bid has been running a stream each evening (11:00 – 14:00 UTC) on Chinese Youtube/Twitch style site bilibili, featuring SF authors and other celebrities encouraging Chinese SF fans (of whom there are millions of course) to join DisCon III and vote for Chengdu.

    The link to the stream is here. Although i couldn’t understand the stream, I used Google Translate to read the chat; full of SF fans, mostly students, talking about their favourite books, movies and tv shows and asking how to set up a local SF club in their area. I managed to register an account and post a bit in the chat; tomorrow I might tell them about fanzines.

  20. Alison Scott: … tomorrow I might tell them about fanzines.

    Why does this remind me of “Dupers for Poland”?

  21. I live and work in Chengdu, also joined several voters’ chatting groups. Most of those voters are university students and they are in all around the country, not only in Chengdu.
    Those student voters would donate $1-$50 and select one of them to pay for their vote.
    Since most of students in China are busying in their lessons or studies, they do not have enough time to do parttime jobs, so their income could only be around $200/month from their parents.
    And please forgive my poor English…I typed these words on the subway on my way to work

  22. I understand the request to redact the numbers and think you were right to honor it, Mike. That said, I’m sure you, Mr. Standlee, Ms Kowal, both bidcoms, and others involved know that’s only symbolic. Within the time scope of importance to Worldcons as a whole, the internet is forever. It takes only trivial effort to end-run the redactions.

  23. I think it’s natural to have this performance in ballots cast for Chengdu, based on the huge population of China. The Chengdu team, as far as I know, has launched several campaigns during the last 2 years in many activities, especially in universities, which has gained a massive support from the young generations.

  24. Three weeks of quarantine to visit China. Not really something I’m prepared to do to visit a convention. I hope there will be some kind of change in visa rules before this, if Chengdu wins.

  25. Sorry Kevin was fired for overstepping.

    Impressive “get out the vote, though!

    3 week quarantine?! Oh, goodness.

  26. @ Kendall:

    Schrödinger’s tickybox?

    I, for one, await the Site Selection results with anticipation. I hope as many as possible of the relevant numbers will be presented to the Business Meeting and minuted. Because, alas, I am not sure I will be awake (or available) when the relevant data may or may not be live-streamed.

  27. I guess I am naive, but I don’t understand what was wrong with Kevin giving a breakdown of what countries the ballots came from.

  28. I can see reasons why it may not have been appropriate for Kevin Standlee to post the figures, but they would only be uniformed guesses. Has DisCon or Ms. Kowal made any official statement about removing him? Or said why they did?

    “I guess I am naive, but I don’t understand what was wrong with Kevin giving a breakdown of what countries the ballots came from.”
    For one thing, given that he is a part of the Winnipeg bid team, posting real-time totals that show Chengdu ahead could be seen as a “get out the vote” rally for Winnipeg. I don’t think he had any such intention, but it provides the appearance of a conflict of interest. (but as I said, this is a guess, and shouldn’t be taken as anything other than that.)

  29. I guess I am naive, but I don’t understand what was wrong with Kevin giving a breakdown of what countries the ballots came from.

    (Apologies in advance if I am misunderstanding the site selection administration process.)

    I was wondering yesterday whether it was a normal practice to see country numbers before the winner was announced.

    Telling people who is winning while votes are still being cast could be seen as an effort to influence the outcome. And that’s the inference I took from one country having such a big lead in nationality of voters.

  30. @Margaret
    “I guess I am naive, but I don’t understand what was wrong with Kevin giving a breakdown of what countries the ballots came from.”

    The comments on Kevin Standlee’s redacted Livejournal post bring up other issues, including possible GDPR issues.

  31. In those comments, Kevin says releasing the country data was an effort to influence the in-person vote.

    A commenter told him, “There should be nothing at this level until the voting are being counted or else it could be seen to trying to influence the in person voters.”

    Kevin responded, “Attempting to influence the in-person voters is something that a bid committee does. It’s in the job description. I have made no secret that I’m a member of the Winnipeg committee.”

  32. Hoa, that is on a level of serious wrong on Kevin’s side. I am extremely surprised and somewhat disappointed. On the other hand, I hope it gives Kevin some more free time to enjoy the convention.

  33. OK, it makes sense now. I don’t know why but I just didn’t see it from this point of view before. Of course we can assume that any vote from China is a vote for Chengdu. And therefore Winnipeg supporters need to have a push to get more votes. Yes it does feel like an unfair advantage to have that info and to use it to influence the vote.

  34. No vote tallies were released, only the counts of ballots per country, insofar as we could count them. Anyone who thinks this is wrong should support a change to Section 4.5.1 of the WSFS Constitution: …”Each bidding committee may make a record of the name and address of every voter.”

    Possibly we want a totally anonymous system, where when you vote, the administering convention gives you an anonymous “token” that says “this token entitles the bearer to one supporting membership in Worldcon N.” Even the administering convention wouldn’t know who owned the token; it would just create a list of tokens and issue the next one off the stack without associating it with a convention membership record. After the election is over, the voter could decide whether or not to redeem the token. If they redeem it, they have to give their membership information to the seated Worldcon N. If they don’t redeem it, Worldcon N has their money but no information about that voter and no obligation to service the membership.

    Details on token creation and security are beyond me, but it seems plausible that it could be done.

  35. Anyone who thinks this is wrong should support a change to Section 4.5.1 of the WSFS Constitution: …”Each bidding committee may make a record of the name and address of every voter.”

    That clause gives bidding committees permission to receive the information. It doesn’t say anything about publishing it. There’s no prohibition against doing what you did but no encouragement of it either.

    I think announcing country totals while the vote is going on violates the spirit of Section 4.1.4: “The site-selection voting totals shall be announced at the
    Business Meeting …” In an election where multiple countries are vying to host Worldcon, country totals are a pretty strong correlate of voting totals.

  36. I think at most, something limiting how the information’s used before voting’s closed. (So, a bit stronger than current wording.). No need to make it insanely complicated. It’s tough enough with the silliness from today’s Biz meeting related to Site Selection.

  37. @Margaret

    Yes it does feel like an unfair advantage to have that info

    I don’t see it as an advantage, in that Chengdu had the same access to the same data at the same time that Winnipeg (Kevin) did. They just didn’t need to do anything with it.

    Compare it to a political election. If your party (red) has knowledge that the other guy (blue) is doing well, say from turnout numbers in majority blue precincts, or from exit polling, of course you will do what you can to get out your own red voters. There’s nothing unfair about that.

    @Hampus Eckerman

    that is on a level of serious wrong on Kevin’s side.

    If there was any indication that Kevin had used his position as director of the business meeting, or any other position in Worldcon other than being a member of the Winnipeg team, to gather and release the data, then I’d agree. But from what’s been said, that’s not the case. The data he released was what any member of any bid team would have gotten while being a teller as votes were validated, and (per WSFS Constitution sec 4.5.1) every bid team has to provide tellers. So the data he released was available to all bid teams, and any benefit that accrued to Winnipeg by releasing it was not unfair.

    What happened may appear at first glance to be unseemly, and maybe it is unprecedented, but it doesn’t look like he did anything against any rules.

    Thus, my question from earlier stands — has Worldcon or any administrator made any public comment about the situation? Do they maintain that he violated rules? If not, then why was he fired?

  38. “fans that took a free vacation and talked up the Chengdu bid” – I missed that one, are details online? Thanks.

    (This is about my fifth attempt to get a comment through, no matter how innocuously I spell my name, link etc.; at least lets you known you fell through to the moderation limbo…)

    (Ooh, and NOW after I sent this, I get “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” Improvement!)

  39. @ bill:

    I cannot give you an official ruling (nor quote chapter and verse), but I can give you my view.

    If Kevin hd only been an officer of the Winnipeg bid committee, I would say that what he did was fully within “correct”. But, he was (until dismissed) an officer of DisCon III (inherently, as the chair of the business meeting). And in that role, I think releasing the data was the wrong choice.

    Could you argue that he released the information as Kevin Standlee, neither bid committee member, nor scheduled chair of the business meeting? Yes, I believe that argument has been put forward. However, this is one of those cases where it may be hard to disentangle the three roles (private person, bid committee member, chair of the business meeting), specifically because of the information released.

    Do I personally think Kevin is capable of disentangling these roles in his head (or at least declare he has a possible conflict of interest and temporarily stand down)? Absolutely. Do I think it may give the impression that he may be unable to? Yes. Based on that last, do I think it was correct to force (or ask, I actually don’t know how forceful it was) hm to stand down as chair? Yes. Do I think it was predictable that it would happen? Don’t know, actually. It seems clear in retrospect, but had you asked me Monday, I would have had to say “eh, could go either way”.

  40. The phrase “Caesar’s wife” comes to mind. Kevin is completely trustworthy- but his actions need to be seen as trustworthy by people who don’t know him.

  41. JVjr: Start with housekeeping: I located one comment of yours in spam, and this one in moderation. The others did not register at all for some reason. Those two comments are now posted.

    The reference about fans who went to China doubtless concerns the group who were in Chengdu in 2019 — see item #1 of the November 21, 2019 Scroll. The head of SF Canada, another past President of SFWA, and other Westerners also were hosted at earlier events in China.

    The “talked up the Chengdu bid” part is the person’s opinion. Over the years I’ve seen blog and Facebook posts by many of these people saying how much they enjoyed their trips and the fans they met. I’ve seen a couple of these people specifically endorse the bid on Facebook. That’s as much as I’ve been able to learn about it.

  42. @Ingvar — In general, I wouldn’t disagree, and I even pointed to “appearance of conflict of interest” in my earlier post. But there is a long tradition of people in Worldcon management roles recusing themselves from duties they normally would perform because of personal situations associated with being an author in competition for an award, advocacy of bids, etc., and Kevin has been very open about his involvement with the Winnipeg (and Memphis) bids, and that he is firewalling himself from any possibility of mixing his Business Meeting obligations with his Bid obligations.

    Despite the fact that thousands attend Worldcons, the community of people who make them happen is small enough that there aren’t enough competent folks to fill every role without overlap. People have to wear two hats sometimes.

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