Sunday, September 24, 2006

Election nonsense in Wikimedia

As I mentioned earlier, I was notified by email yesterday of the results of the Board election. Erik, as most everyone no doubt knows, had the largest number of votes, but not a majority. Now, it is a well-grounded principle of parliamentary law that no person may win an election with less than a majority of the votes cast; to do otherwise contravenes one of the fundamental principles underlying parliamentary law. Of course, by using approval voting, the Foundation chose an election process which is well-known not to comport with the fundamental principles of parliamentary law. But we already knew that the Foundation has, at best, a tenuous connection with sensible principles of governance. Trying to change that was one of the reason I ran for Board.

I replied to the formal notification of the results with a demand for a runoff election. Jimbo has informed me that he is not willing to do that. I'm not really that surprised. In any case, Erik lacks a mandate and his presence of the board is illegimate under any reasonable interpretation of parliamentary law. But the Wikimedia Foundation Board has always been something of a farce anyway.

The Board must not, under any circumstances, use approval voting for the purpose of electing officers; approval voting is parliamentarily invalid on several counts. I personally would recommend some form of single transferrable vote. I would also strongly suggest the use of indirect elections, with projects electing delegates to an assembly. This assembly, at the very least, should then elect the Board, and it is my preference that such an assembly should be the actual governing authority of the Foundation. I have not strongly advocated this because I know that Jimbo would strongly oppose it, in large part because it represents a threat to his intentions to maintain firm control over the Foundation. But I think this is the best way to deal with the widespread demand from Wikimedians to have a Board that is accountable and responsible to Wikimedians, without also making Board elections totally dependent on popularity (which is what happened with this most recent election).

While Erik is not the worst choice the community could have made, he is certainly not even close to the best, and I suspect that the Foundation will be, at least in the short term, worse off for it.