Kevin Standlee - 2007-07-17 20:16:57
Intriguing story, and thank you for posting it. I do, however, wonder much more about this assertion regarding the 1983 Westercon election: <em>If they had instead suggested that their supporters enter "None of the Above" and "No Preference" in the number two and three positions, the Oakland In '83 bid would have won.</em> I wasn't there -- I didn't enter fandom until the following year -- and have never seen the detailed voting results for that election; however, I don't see how this follows. If Oakland "Oakland bid received the majority vote," as you say, then it would have won immediately. It takes a majority to win the election. If you mean that Oakland had a <em>plurality</em> -- more votes than any other candidate, but not a majority -- then none of the ballots marking it as the voters' first preference would ever have been redistributed. In Instant Runoff Voting, the leader's ballots are never consulted. Only the votes of eliminated candidates get redistributed. So, assuming Oakland had a plurality and was never eliminated as a candidate, none of the ballots cast for it had any further effect on the election. Only the votes for the other candidates mattered. Am I misuderstanding what you were saying about the order of finish?
John McLaughlin - 2007-07-17 23:37:00
Thanks for your feedback, Kevin, because the way YOU described it sounds correct. I never took notes on what exactly happened with the voting; so, yes, it looks like we received a plurality, but not a majority. The late Jerry Jacks was the particular SMOF who tried to explain what was going on, and he said that the ballots weren't handled properly. It's my understanding that the bids in question are not supposed to try to influence how a voter marks their ballot, and there were allegations that Portland and San Jose were in collusion to see that the Oakland bid was defeated, and that "proper oversight" of the actual ballot-marking was not done (does that last bit sound right to you?). Who said what I can't confirm, one way or another. I DO know for a fact that some persons on the Portland bid committee cornered Steve Bard (who was at the time chairing NorWesCon) while he was eating lunch, and tried to enlist his support in defeating the Oakland bid. They said something like "We have to do everything we can to see this bid gets defeated!" What they didn't know was the lady Steve was having lunch with was Lela Dowling, one of my closest friends, and the primary artist for all of the Oakland In '83 promotional material. Following their lunch, Lela and Steve came to me with the news. There was also a rumor floated (Wow--a rumor, in Fandom! Who'd ever think THAT would happen?) that the Oakland bid was actually being run by some businessmen who were "trying to take over Westercon" and that they were using us innocent kids as their pawns. One other thing I remember was Jerry Jacks told me we lost the second count by only a few votes. Does THAT bit make sense to you? I bow to your superior knowledge and experience in this area. Thanks again. Perhaps with your assistance we can narrow down the actual voting totals, so I can revise the write-up to reflect the proper terms & etc.
Kevin Standlee - 2007-07-18 02:17:26
I'll see how well I can answer this within the formatting constraints of Diaryland. I wasn't there in 1981 when the election for 1983 would have happened. I've never seen the detailed vote totals for that election, and unlike the Worldcon numbers, which are available from many years, I don't know where to get the detailed numbers, other than possibly from Ben Yalow, who seems to keep everything. You write: "It's my understanding that the bids in question are not supposed to try to influence how a voter marks their ballot,..." Well, there may be some people who believe that, but I'm not one of them. In particularly, in a more-than-two-way race, it's very important to try and influence voters who aren't voting you as their first choice to put you as their second choice, because as the number of candidates goes up, the chance of any of them getting a first-ballot majority goes down. In particularly, you really want to pick up the second-preference votes of the weakest candidates, because they are the ones who will be first to be eliminated. Example: In 1990 in The Hague, none of the four filed bids for the 1993 Worldcon had a majority of the ballots cast. At that point, the order was San Francisco, Hawaii, Zagreb, Phoenix. The Phoenix bid, placing last, was thus eliminated and all of its ballots redistributed based on their next-highest choice. Nearly all of those second preferences were for San Francisco, which pushed SF in '93 over the top with just barely (by one vote) a majority. You continue: "... 'proper oversight' of the actual ballot-marking was not done." Well, this allegation may mean that the administering 1981 Westercon may have done a poor job of supervising the Site Selection election table. Although this table is generally staffed by people from the bids, it's supposed to be supervised by the administering convention, and, just like in the mundane world, electioneering at the ballot box is prohibited. Representatives of the bids should not be telling people how to vote at the ballot box, unless possibly in response to factual questions. For example, if a bidder asked, "I want Portland to win, but if they don't win, I want San Jose to win. How should I mark my ballot?" In this case, any of the people at the desk should have said, "Mark a 1 by Portland and a 2 by San Jose." That's not electioneering, but explanation of voting procedure. Meanwhile, if (and it's not proven) the San Jose and Portland bids were making a concerted effort to make sure _one_ of them won, they should have been advising all of their respective supporters to vote their bid 1 and the other one 2. If they did that consistently in a three-way race, and assuming Oakland didn't win a first-ballot majority, then it's almost certain that one of the other two bids would win, because whichever of the other two bids was eliminated, the other bid would capture all of its votes and shoot past Oakland for the win. Getting the plurality of first-ballot votes in an Instant Runoff Voting election doesn't guarantee that you will win the election. I even recall an Hugo ballot a few years ago where a work by Harlan Ellison had the first ballot plurality, and not only did it not win, it finished dead last overall. You conclude: "Jerry Jacks told me we lost the second count by only a few votes. Does THAT bit make sense to you?" That does sound very much to me like the other two bids making an effort to convince all of their supporters to back the other bid. There is nothing unethical about this in my opinion. To a certain extent, the Phoenix and San Francisco Worldcon bids informally encouraged our supporters to vote the other one in second.
John McLaughlin - 2007-07-18 14:11:53
Thanks, Kevin. That explains away the mystery perfectly. What I was told was that, in fact, there was NO oversight by the 1981 Westercon during the entire first day of the con, and for a portion (though I'm uncertain of how many hours) of the second day. Fear of the unknown is a strong motivator, and since our group literally came out of nowhere, and was for the most part unknown by the established Westercon community, I can understand why they chose the tactics they did. I'll have to send you a copy of the Oakland In '83 brochure we put together; I think you'll find it interesting. Thanks again.
Andrew T Trembley - 2007-07-18 18:59:11
Having been up to my eyeballs in Westercon and Worldcon voting, and learning (from Kevin Standlee and others) about how instant run-off "Australian" balloting works, your instructions to voters were absolutely correct. The ***worst*** thing you could have done back in '81 was to convince voters that the should have voted "none of the above" and "no preference." As Kevin says, since you got the plurality on the first count, your voters' lower-ranked choices had no impact on the selection. If you had placed third and instructed your voters to vote "NOTA" and "No preference" 2 and 3 respectively, they would have given up their voice in the second count and the final selection.
Kevin Standlee - 2007-07-19 19:58:22
I've had some correspondence with other people who were there, and I think I now understand a bit more about the Westercon election. This was the one where the administering convention (Sacramento) didn't really understand how IRV worked, and on the first day was telling people "just mark an X by the bid you want to win," which is more or less harmless in two-way races, but is awful in more-than-two-way races such as the 1983 Westercon. This means that there were people who voted for Portland (for instance) as their first choice with an X and did not understand that they could have voted for (say) Oakland as a second choice. While this error was corrected for later ballots, it was too late to recover the ballots already cast. There's no easy way to figure out who would have "really" won, and I understand that technically this election may have been decided by the Business Meeting in conjuction with Westercon's nominal corporate parent, LASFS. So it wasn't the other two bids error or conspiracy so much as it was lack of competence by the administering convention. (This is why I get annoyingly petty over small details of election administration.)
John - 2007-07-20 13:37:58
Thanks again, Kevin. I don't think that any of us that were part of the Oakland In '83 bid were bitter about how the voting went--Jerry Jacks had advised us that there was likely to be a LOT of fannish politics going on because we were an unknown quantity--so we knew what we were up against. Anyway, at Jerry's prompting we got the Regional con off the ground within 16 months of the '81 Westercon (and I'm still amazed, 25 years later, that less than 50 of us pulled something like that off!) If you look at any of the BayCon '82 pubs like the program book and programming guide, you'll see it really looks pretty much like a Westercon. BTW, if you don't have any of that stuff, and would like copies (since you're something of a fannish historian), I'll send you a set.

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