[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.
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.
I think Kevin did a very wrong thing to release the number of voters from different countries, before site selection was done. Especially as only those being onsite had any chance to act on the information, those a proportionally larger group from those living closer to the convention. This was wrong regardless of if he was involved in the Winnipeg bid committee or not, but became much much serious because he was. I think this was a serious lack in judgement.
If you think something else, then it’s just another reason to not bother listening to you.
If it had been, say, LA vs. Boston in voting, releasing these numbers would have been OK, I’d say. With this race, I think putting this information out there is detrimental. There’s a portion of TAFF Administration FAQs that cover a scenario like this with TAFF, but I think it’s utterly applicable here – “Leaking information on the current TAFF race’s progress is not a good idea.
This has also been done with the best of intentions – for example, dropping hints in hope of drumming up a few mercy votes for a candidate who looks set to be utterly humiliated. It’s arguably within the rules (“Voting is by secret ballot” forbids disclosure of individual voters’ choices, not of trends and certainly not of final results), but that appearance of impropriety is hard to avoid.”
@Chris Garcia: That makes no sense to me. Either it’s okay or it’s not. If 2000+ ballots were from California and a LOT fewer were from Mass. . . . would you say the same? (You don’t explain your position at all, so I’m not sure if it’s the number of voters, or if it’s because it’s a U.S. bid and a non-U.S. bid, or what. I’m just guessing it may be one of these.)
I feel if it’s not okay, it’s not okay, whether it’s a close race or not, and no matter where the bids are from. Then perhaps (probably) we should change the rules to say so. And I lean towards “not okay.”
I was talking about by nation, where the location of a number of voters is not meant to imply one side or the other is in the lead. So if it were LA vs Boston, and you listed by country, I would say that would be fine in my eyes, because it’s not making a point other than “there are this many votes and countries voting” and that can actually encourage voting with encouraging a specific vote, either way. Here, I think it’s far too telling.
The point is that no candidate in an election process should be taken by surprise by how and when information about the vote is published, particularly when the vote is still in process. It doesn’t matter what is or isn’t explicitly in the constitution. It’s a simple matter of fair procedure, especially where one contender is less familiar with the process as a whole.
This was not done as a mere public service in the name of transparency. It was explicitly done in order to whip up the potential vote for Winnipeg against Chengdu.
So an Area Head in the WSFS Division published privileged information about a vote which is still in process, information which there is no precedent for publishing at this stage even by his own account, with the explicit aim of influencing the outcome of the current Site Selection vote.
Choices have consequences, and Discon and the Winnipeg bid took appropriate action.
I’m with Hampus. It sure feels like this wanna released, as it was released, as an attempt to get everyone at the convention to scurry over to the site nomination table and counter vote.
In hindsight, being chair of the business meeting and a committee member of an issue being decided by the business meeting is probably a conflict of interest best avoided.
Yes, and it could be counter productive anyway. People thinking that it’s a done deal so they don’t bother to vote.
Being a bid committee member is one thing, but it seems like being one of their representatives at the vote validation is the problem here.
@Chris Garcia: Thanks for clarifying! Then yeah I think regardless, it shouldn’t be released partway through. Not just when it’s more than one country involved.
This seems like a straightforward thing to amend, to state that no demographic information be released before the final results are reported to the Business Meeting (or something like that; this is just off the top of my head).
@Laura: Well, the constitution says each bid committee must provide at least two tellers, actually, and that they may record names & addresses. So the problem wasn’t that he was a teller (someone connected to the bid had to be!) — just IMHO an error in judgement
(IIRC it’s for transparency for the bid committees (not us), since the bid committees invest a lot of time and money into bidding.)
@NickPheas: The results are reported to the Biz Meeting; the chair has no practical power to affect the outcome. So to me, it doesn’t seem like a conflict of interest. The meeting members vote on everything and can override the chair, and the incredibly cranky and nit-picky folks at the meeting would swifly overrule a chair who tried anything wacko. 😉 The chair presides, but isn’t president/king/etc.
In fact, when the chair even just wants to speak on motions, they step down temporarily as chair and the deputy chair takes over. Kevin’s done that before and Donald Eastlake’s already done it a few times this week.
(To reiterate, so no one gets confused: I think it was poor judgement and I’d support and vote for a simple amendment to make it clear this shouldn’t be done. Currently, the Constitution doesn’t say anything about what the bid committees can do with the information it says they can collect, unless I missed something.)
Apologies if I misread you or @Laura, or if I over-Kendall-splained, or if I mangled anything here.
Yes, I was just saying maybe it didn’t have to be him in that role (assume they have more then a couple people there). He was planning to step aside from the chair for site selection at the BM.
@Laura: Ah, sorry then, I misunderstood “Being a bid committee member is one thing, but it seems like being one of their representatives at the vote validation is the problem here.” Thanks.
BTW excellent point that releasing info like that could backfire anyway!
What I’m really afraid of is a close call where Chengdu loses by just a few votes. Because that would create very ill feelings where the result might as well have been different under a fair election with no manipulation from Kevin’s side.
While conflicted before, I really hope for a Chengdu win now to avoid that.
In fact, because we saw how far ahead Chengdu appeared to be, a Winnipeg win would pretty much have to be a very close call. Between this and the last minute resolution from Winnipeg passed by the Business Meeting which Chengdu probably had no chance to have any say in, it looks so bad.
This is an old thread, so there may not be response to this, but can you clarify? I have been presuming the large vote for Chengdu was the result of an organic campaign to get locals to join and vote. While this happened at unprecedented scale, and may cause issues because these voters were almost all people who had no experience with WSFS, it remains within the bounds of the rules to do this.
However, if somebody paid for their memberships or voting fees, that’s another story entirely. Your text seems to imply the students who voted could not afford the $100 and others provided the money. Can you clarify?
In what way? Is there a rule saying where the money for the membership should come from? I bought a membership for my father and brother for Helsinki. Was that ok with you?
Mary Robinette Kowal bought multiple supporting memberships for Sasquan for people who couldn’t afford to go (without any knowledge of what those people’s affiliations were)
Just fine. We’ve all done that. The issue would be around doing this in an organized fashion and large volume. While not explicitly outlined in the rules, this is from the set of activities broadly deemed fraudulent that are rarely explicitly spelled out. You don’t have to explicitly write “no activities commonly classed as vote fraud” in your rules. And there is fannish precedent about it. (Though also history of false accusations so one wants to get data.) To meet the textbook definition of a vote fraud one would also look for any indication that there was an expectation of how they would vote and worst of all any verification of how they voted, though one need not go that far.
That’s why I ask for clarification. The details would be important. The judgement over whether there was vote fraud would not be made by you or I. And at this point, I am not even sure there is a way for WSFS to do it, with the ballots destroyed and the vote accepted. That does not mean one would not want to examine the lesson of it or make it known if there were significant evidence of it. Perhaps I just misunderstand what was written here. Perhaps those who organized it were meticulous about the typical rules of this, and made this alleged offer (if there was an offer) available to voters in Winnipeg too.
However, if an organization offered people money (and buying you a membership is giving you money) with the expectation, or worse, certainty you would vote their way, that is a violation of common rules of voting fraud and should be disclosed if it took place.
There is particular concern over supporting memberships bought at a late date, which convey no rights except site voting and nominating next year. And I’m actually a little uncomfortable about what was just posted about MRK, but if she had truly no expectations of how they would vote, it would not cross the line.
Sounded more like small groups of students choosing to pool their money to buy one of their number a membership to vote on their collective behalf. That’s not an organisation, and it doesn’t artificially inflate the number of interested parties (quite the opposite).
Thus the desire for more information. It’s not at all clear. Though I am again troubled by buying memberships for strangers to get them to vote, particularly after the Hugo voting is done. I wrote above that a late supporting gets you voting and nominating next year, but the reality is supporting next year gets you 2 years of nominating and Hugo voting and site voting next year for the same fee, so there is really only one reason to buy a late supporting, and that’s to vote on site selection, and if a stranger pays for it, particularly at scale, I am sure I am not the only one to find that idea troubling. We don’t know this is what took place, but we have this odd piece of evidence that some sort of subsidization happened and hope to see it clarified.
WSFS could consider ending the purchase of a supporting membership after the Hugo deadline by people with no recent prior attending membership in WSFS as one of the steps to mitigate against this, though it would only be partially effective.
I hope it’s not true. I think that having the Worldcon visit more countries, including non-English ones is a good idea, but it should not happen with any unethical actions for a raft of reasons, so I hope this question can be cleared up. (Nor am I happy if a convention official released confidential biasing information before the close of voting, though that did not alter the vote and he has agreed it was improper.)
Strangers? What are you talking about!?
Brad Templeton: I wrote above that a late supporting gets you voting and nominating next year, but the reality is supporting next year gets you 2 years of nominating and Hugo voting and site voting next year for the same fee
A late Supporting membership purchased after the 2021 Hugo voting deadline gets the purchaser Hugo nomination rights for 2022.
A Site Selection token purchased in 2021 gets the purchaser Hugo nomination rights for 2023 and 2024 and Hugo voting rights for 2023, plus the ability to purchase a Site Selection token in 2023 for an additional fee.
We don’t have the additional details yet, but the description of it involving people in cities all over China and was done online implies people were buying memberships for other than their close friends and associates. However, the sentence is unclear and difficult to understand, so I am seeking clarification. I have said that if people are paying for the memberships of strangers with the expectation that this will be to vote a particular way, this is an issue of concern. I do not state that we know this to have happened, we just have some evidence that prompts the question.
As to the motives of buying a late supporting membership, the comparison is paying $100 the day before the con, or early for next year. For the same price, if you buy it for Chicago, you get nomination rights in 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025, Hugo voting rights in 2022 and 2024, a site selection vote in 2022 and the right to buy one in 2024. (You also get publications but everybody gets those now for free.) You also get upgrade rights in 2022 and 2024. In terms of participation for your money, it’s not much of a contest, and one would only pay for somebody’s supporting membership 1 week before the con in order to influence the site selection vote.
In what way is that implied? I find the idea of poor chinese students handing over their money to strangers quite weird. Especially as the comment you react to say that they themselves chose who to hand the money to for membership. Sounds more logical they would give it to a friend.
H Eckernan: Frankly the sentence is confusing — poor English is fully excusable of course here. If you don’t find anything at all worthy of asking for more details in the description, that’s up to you. I don’t firmly read it either way, but the line about the students living on $200/month states clearly that few of them had enough to buy $100 con memberships/voting tokens, or to give it to other students. Let’s find out.
I have seen no evidence presented that anything inappropriate went on in the get-out-the-vote effort that helped Chengdu win the 2023 Worldcon.
But hypothetically, if an entity wanted to finance a lot of memberships for people in its own country to help a site bid, it wouldn’t have to tell anybody who to vote for. There’d be no need to do that. SF/F fans with a chance to bring a Worldcon to their country for the first time are going to vote for it.
Don’t you think that people behind the Winnipeg bid would have called out chicanery by now if any had taken place? The last-ditch effort to have 1,591 votes thrown out for lack of addresses was co-sponsored by two of their leaders. They’d be out there pleading their case.
This is perfectly clear. A group of students would pool their collective funds, select one of their number to be the spokesvoter, and then that person votes on behalf of the collective. This is not inflating numbers, this is not an organisation, this is not mysteriously rich students buying memberships for many strangers all across the country, this is groups of friends combining resources to buy one membership for the entire group.
I do not understand where you’re seeing evidence for all this wild speculation you’re doing.
That is one of the things that makes me feel this is less likely, and in fact until I saw the post I quoted above, I was presuming there was no chicanery. (Though I continue to feel that having 2,000 newcomers decide the vote is against the spirit of the process, if not the letter, so I do have that bias.)
As for “surely they would know,” you would be surprised. I cover technology in China, but not having gone there for a few years I am much more out of the loop on what’s happening on the ground there. It was hard enough when I could go there. And yes, the Winnipeg bidders and the site selection admin obviously felt something was going on. The situation where they asked for permission to interpret the rules as converting those ballots to no-preference, got the non-binding advice and then didn’t do it — well that’s just strange. To me, that smells of “felt something was amiss, but couldn’t prove it, so backed off or were made to back off.” But we don’t know.
Of course another alternative was just a blatantly unethical move of desperation. That’s not a great thing to imagine, either. I would hope to think everybody was trying to act well. Indeed, since some people here seem to feel it would not be a violation of voting ethics to subsidize voters on a large scale, it could be that if that happened (we don’t know it did) that nobody thought it was inappropriate. However, in my view it would be inappropriate, which is why I wish to follow this thread of evidence. If I were the Chengdu concom, I would not even want the appearance of anything improper. And I don’t accuse them of doing anything, I just say I would like to understand what the post in question meant, because it does have the appearance of being improper, but is not proof.
Meredith, I now see where you are going. You are suggesting that perhaps there were 10s of thousands of students, who pooled resources so that a thousand could get the voting memberships? While that is a possible interpretation of the sentence, it’s not the only one, and not the first one I would think of because the scale is so large. But if that’s the explanation, I am happy to hear it.
Students living on $200/month, even in China, can’t easily gather even $20 to donate, and supporting membership plus voting token is $100.
In other words, you are finding “evidence” of Chinese chicanery in a post that in fact provides a quite clear and reasonable explanation of why the late votes are quite normal due to the circumstances and normal behavior of Chinese students, and not evidence of chicanery I initially suspected when I heard of All Those Last-Minute Votes.
And you say you were presuming no chicanery when we had no explanation of those last-minute votes. Color me skeptical. With every comment you reduce my resistance to the Chengdu WorldCon.
I can’t see anyone having discussed subsidizing voters in any way at all. From what I know, every membership has been paid in full. So I’m not sure how you can come to any conclusion about what peoples opinions would be on this that hasn’t been discussed.
I have no desire to influence your resistance or acceptance of Chengdu. I actually think, while troubled by some aspects of China every time I go there, that it would be a good thing. I am less comfortable with it coming about through the purchase entirely within the rules of vast numbers of supporting memberships only to vote on the site selection, rather than as the organic decision of those who have been in WSFS more than a week. But as noted, that’s within the rules. I retain interest in understand a difficult to parse statement (maybe it’s only me who finds it difficult to parse) that suggests there was an organized campaign to help people to fund the purchase of these memberships and voting tokens. Most such efforts would raise eyebrows for me. Paying for strangers to vote crosses a line, if that is what took place. Perhaps this one will turn out, with full details, not to cross any lines. If saying that makes you like the Chengdu con more, then that’s your option of course. I am being careful not to myself allege any wrongdoing here. I am just saying that the statement above makes me want to know more, because it’s not as clear to me as it is to some. I understand that even saying “if this happened” seems like an accusation sometimes. It isn’t. It’s just a question to understand what happened better. Some people online have been making overt accusations of conspiracies without any evidence; direct your ire at them.
I interpreted that comment the same way Meredith did. Groups of Chinese students pooling their money to buy one membership and putting in one vote for each group. So the exact opposite of falsely inflating the number of votes.
There are often efforts to provide WSFS memberships for those who cannot afford them. No strings attached.
It would be interesting to observer what fraction of Chengdu selectors follow up with participation in future Hugo nominations, compared to Winnipeg selectors.
“it is super clear that Chengdu’s 2023 WorldCon bid is fully supported by municipal (16M people) and provincial (81M people) governments.”
Why wouldn’t you expect that this support extends to paying for site selection expenses?
Why wouldn’t I expect you to have been paid to ask that question?
Who would pay me? Who would benefit?
Should I believe you are paid to ask those questions?
Speculation continues to fail at being actual evidence. When you’ve got some, show it, until then, the fandom deserves better than to be treated as inherently suspicious.