• Heading into the 2012 OTW term!

    By .Lucy Pearson on Tuesday, 31 January 2012 - 11:18am
    Message type:

    Here at the OTW, things are gearing up for the beginning of the 2012 term! The interwebs are humming with activity and excitement as we get ready to welcome new staff and start the new year's work.

    The end of December and the beginning of January was our official hiatus, during which most of our staffers and volunteers* took a well-earned rest (at least in theory)! This is also the time when our committees dissolve and reform, and our hard-working Volunteers and Recruitment Committee sort through all the lists of people who are 'Willing to Serve'. This is the main time for taking on new committee staffers, and is an opportunity for people to step up to new roles (or to step down from old ones). Some people are returning to the committees they have served on before, others are getting ready to try something new, and we have a bunch of new folk joining us! \0/

    With the new term, we formally welcome our 2012 Board of Directors: Julia Beck, Francesca Coppa, Ira Gladkova, Kristen Murphy, Naomi Novik, Nikisha Sanders and Jenny Scott-Thompson. We're excited to have another diverse and dedicated Board.

    After three years of formal service, Rachel Barenblat and Sheila Lane have become Emeritus Board Members, as have Hele Braunstein and Allison Morris, who stepped down at the end of last term for personal reasons. We thank them all for their hard work on the Board, and we look forward to working with them in other capacities in the future.

    One of the first tasks for the new Board was to select committee chairs for the 2012 term. We're thrilled to say that all those invited to serve as chairs have accepted: we have some folk returning for another term as chairs, and a few new faces too. Now that the committee chairs have been appointed, they have been sent the lists of people who are interested in joining their committees, and will be reviewing those over the next few days. If you're a new volunteer for a committee — or if you were a staffer last year and wanted to stay on — you should be hearing from us very soon. If you're volunteering for a non-committee role (such as tag wrangling or coding) you may wait a little longer to hear from the committee who manages that work, as they will need to get up and running.

    We're very grateful to everyone, both past and present, who donates their time and skills to the Organization for Transformative Works. You make the magic happen!

    Without further ado, Board officers and committee chairs for the 2012 OTW Term. Welcome — or welcome back — to:

    OTW Board

    Kristen Murphy, President
    Jenny Scott-Thompson, Secretary
    Julia Beck, Vice-Secretary
    Nikisha Sanders, Treasurer
    Francesca Coppa
    Ira Gladkova
    Naomi Novik

    OTW Committee Chairs

    Franzeska Dickson

    Accessibility, Design, & Technology
    Amelia and Elz

    Claudia Rebaza and Lucy Pearson

    Content Policy
    Rebecca Tushnet

    Development & Membership
    Kristen Murphy

    Nikisha Sanders

    Internationalization & Outreach
    Andrea Horbinski

    Karen Hellekson

    Rebecca Tushnet

    Open Doors
    Heather Cook

    Matty Lynne

    Sidra and Arrow

    Tag Wrangling
    Alison Watson and Xparrot

    Agnieszka Siemienska and Julia Beck

    Francesca Coppa

    Volunteers & Recruiting



    Let's get ready to move some more fannish mountains!

    * Staffers are the awesome folk who serve on committees and thus make a more formal commitment to the org, which involves working on a fairly consistent basis (at least a couple of hours a week). Volunteers are the awesome folk who also work hard to contribute to the org, but on a more informal basis: they don't usually have to attend meetings, and it's easier for them to dip in and out and contribute as much or as little time as they wish. We love them all — different roles just suit different people and different tasks.

  • Reminder: 15 Days Left for 2011 Donations!

    By .Megan Westerby on Friday, 16 December 2011 - 7:39pm
    Message type:

    The end of 2011 is nigh! We know the end of the year is a busy time on fannish and non-fannish fronts so we won't waste your time: there are only 15 days left to qualify for tax deductions in 2011 (United States). If you've been thinking about donating to the OTW but haven't done so yet, you may want to take a look at your finances and see whether it would be to your benefit to do so before December 31. And if you're employed, please find out if your employer offers matching donations! Every dollar you give could be worth two dollars to the OTW. You can learn more about how to get your donation matched by your employer on the support the OTW page (scroll down to where it says, "If your employer offers matching donations, you may be able to double your gift!")

    Of course, we welcome help in the form of volunteer effort at anytime! For a detailed descriptions of our committees and their recruitment needs, please see the Committee Descriptions for 2012. To volunteer, please fill out the Volunteer Interest Form.

    Enjoy the rest of 2011 and thank you from everyone at the OTW.

  • OTW Board meeting minutes now available online

    By Kristen Murphy on Friday, 9 December 2011 - 3:57am
    Message type:

    As part of our overall efforts to increase transparency, the OTW Board of Directors has voted to publicly post the minutes of Board meetings. You can read the Board meeting minutes here. At present only minutes from the 2011 term are available, but we'll be adding some older minutes once we've had the chance to review them for confidential information.

    Most of our Board meetings have two parts, which you will see reflected in the minutes. Each meeting generally begins with an "open session" that takes place in the Chairs chat room and is open to all OTW committee chairs. The second part of the meeting is a "closed session" that takes place in the Boardroom and is open only to the Board. Closed sessions are used for discussing confidential matters such as legal or personnel issues (in the latter case, the minutes generally do not record the names of the personnel involved), while open sessions cover a wide variety of topics. Following each meeting, minutes are drafted by the Secretary and then approved by the other Board members.

    We recognize that increasing organizational transparency means something bigger and deeper than simply posting more stuff — and meeting minutes, in particular, can sometimes be challenging to make sense of because they are snapshots in time that lack the context of what goes on between meetings. Still, we hope that posting our minutes will offer a useful window into the work of the Board. To learn about other transparency initiatives that are currently in progress or under discussion, and to add to that discussion, please see our recent post on brainstorming for a more inclusive OTW (also on Dreamwidth and LiveJournal, where there are more comments). We welcome your suggestions.

  • TWC releases No. 8 (Race and Ethnicity/Textual Echoes special issue)

    By Kristen Murphy on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 - 12:54pm
    Message type:

    Transformative Works and Cultures has released No. 8, a special guest-edited double issue comprising Race and Ethnicity in Fandom (edited by Robin Anne Reid and Sarah N. Gatson) and Textual Echoes (edited by Cyber Echoes, a collective comprising Berit Åström, Katarina Gregersdotter, Malin Isaksson, Maria Lindgren Leavenworth, and Maria Helena Svensson).

    Race and Ethnicity in Fandom comprises four research essays covering topics such as race, identity, and construction in fandom, gaming, and Web series.

    Mel Stanfill, in "Doing Fandom, (Mis)doing Whiteness: Heteronormativity, Racialization, and the Discursive Construction of Fandom," provides an interdisciplinary analysis of film and television shows to assess fandom as a form of performativity that both undercuts and reinforces white privilege.

    "Fandom as Industrial Response: Producing Identity in an Independent Web Series," by Aymar Jean Christian, expands the definition of fan by analyzing a made-for-Web series based on the TV show Sex and the City.

    Thomas D. Rowland and Amanda C. Barton, in "Outside Oneself in World of Warcraft: Gamers' Perception of the Racial Self-Other," provide survey results showing how gamers' racial attitudes intersect with avatar and interavatar creation.

    Sun Jung, in "K-pop, Indonesian Fandom, Social Media," performs an ethnographic study, also drawing on material on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to analyze K-pop fandom from the perspective of Indonesian youth.

    Textual Echoes comprises four research essays and two Symposium essays. The special issue grew out of a three-day symposium hosted by Umeå University, Sweden, which included a keynote address by TWC's own Kristina Busse.

    Charles W. Hoge reads fan fic as play in "Whodology: Encountering Doctor Who Fan Fiction through the Portals of Play Studies and Ludology" by applying the criteria of theorist Roger Caillois's for game and play.

    The three Praxis essays address themes of desire, sexuality, and identity in relation to fan works. Bridget Kies ("One True Threesome: Reconciling Canon and Fan Desire in Star Trek: Voyager") analyzes desire in terms of fan fic about the Tom Paris–Harry Kim–B'Elanna Torres triad.

    Mark McHarry, in "(Un)gendering the Homoerotic Body: Imagining Subjects in Boys' Love and Yaoi," discusses dōjinshi, fan comics with young male characters, by performing a reading of Maldoror's Freeport (based on the anime Gundam Wing) via Grosz, Kristeva, and Foucault.

    Kate Roddy's essay, "Masochist or Machiavel? Reading Harley Quinn in Canon and Fanon," discusses Harley Quinn (the Joker's girlfriend in the Batman canon) in relation to medical and feminist discourses about female submissiveness.

    In the Symposium section, Maria Lindgren Leavenworth discusses The Vampire Diaries and its fan fiction in "Transmedial Texts and Serialized Narratives," assessing mythos, topos, and ethos in terms of the story world. And Nele Noppe, in "Why We Should Talk about Commodifying Fan Work," sees opportunities for fans to build hybrid economies via Web-based commerce.

    TWC No. 8 also includes two book reviews: Melanie Kohnen reviews The Young and the Digital by S. Craig Watkins, and Laurie B. Cubbison reviews Adolescents and Online Fan Fiction by Rebecca Black.

  • 2011 OTW Board Elections - Results

    By .Ira Gladkova on Saturday, 19 November 2011 - 12:08am
    Message type:

    The results of the 2011 OTW election are in. In alphabetical order by family name, the newly-elected Board members are:

    Julia Beck
    Naomi Novik
    Nikisha Sanders
    Jenny Scott-Thompson

    Congratulations to our newly-elected directors and many thanks to all our candidates! It's been an honour to have such incredible and dedicated people running, and we are proud to work with every one.

    Many thanks as well to all our voters for your participation this election season! We are likewise honoured to have so many fans contributing their voices. Thank you.

    Please feel free to contact our Elections Officer, Ira Gladkova, with any questions. For an overview of the election process we used, a variety of preferential voting, see our voting process page.

  • 2011 OTW Board Election Ballot Now Closed

    By .Ira Gladkova on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 1:04pm
    Message type:

    The polls are now closed; many thanks to all our voters and candidates! This year, 555 out of 845 -- 66% -- of eligible voters cast their ballot. If you would like to pick up an "I Voted!" banner, please check our previous post!

    Our awesome staff are working on the election results right now. As per our Elections Timeline, if we don't have the results ready by midnight UTC (check the time in your area), we'll post a status report. The deadline for posting the election results is Monday, 21 November. After that, 23 November is the deadline for candidates to request recounts, revotes, or clarification of results, and, if any revote is determined to be necessary, it will take place no later than 7 December. Finally, 9 December will be rollover day, when we welcome our newly elected Board members.

  • 2011 OTW Board Elections - 12 Hours Left to Vote!

    By .allison morris on Friday, 18 November 2011 - 12:18am
    Message type:

    We're now 12 hours away from the end of the voting period — polls close at noon UTC 18 Nov (check the time in your area)! So far, an amazing 60% of eligible voters (505 out of 845) have submitted their ballots.

    Thank you to all who have voted so far! We've heard a couple calls for something along the lines of "I Voted" stickers, so we've whipped one up and made it available below for your use. Anyone else who would like to make graphics is welcome to share them as well!

    For anyone who has yet to vote, remember to check your eligibility (membership donation between 1 Oct 2010 and 17 Oct 2011), then check your inboxes for your voter emails! Those contain your voter account username and instructions for setting your password, which you can use to log in with your voter account. Once you're logged in, the ballot can be found here, and you can read about our candidates here. Questions? Contact the OTW Elections Officer.

    Graphic displaying text 'I Voted!' in black on a white field. A red OTW logo replaces the letter O

    Feel free to link this graphic by copying the text below the image and pasting it into your journal or website!
  • 2011 OTW Elections Voting - The People!

    By .allison morris on Wednesday, 16 November 2011 - 2:16am
    Message type:

    We're getting down to the wire — polls open noon UTC 16 November (check the time in your area) and close 48 hours later, at noon UTC 18 November (check the time in your area) — just enough time for one last peek behind the scenes!

    Yesterday's post explaining how the OTW uses a modified version of Instant Runoff Voting to determine multiple winners with a single ballot focused on the technology and how the results are determined once the election period is complete. But our election is far from an instant process; we've implemented procedures surrounding that technology to assure that those results are verifiable, that there are multiple corroborating sources to disallow any possibility of tampering, and that we have created an audit trail.

    The OTW's Elections committee, active throughout the 2008 and 2009 terms, felt that was important; not because they felt there was a danger of tampering, but because we, as an organization, should be able to assure our members with full confidence that their votes are being handled with care and respect. After all, we are an organization founded by fans, run by fans, and working in the interests of fans; our Board elections are one of the many ways that our members guide us.

    Today we offer a peek at what the staff members tasked with elections work have been doing over the past weeks, and how they will be spending the next few days.

    First — who are these people? Well, the elections process requires that we fill several roles. Candidates! They're pretty important, and they've been working hard throughout the candidacy period to share their vision while simultaneously carrying out their regular work load for the OTW. But you know about them already (if you don't, please peruse all of our Elections posts, or visit the Candidate Information page!) The next role that's vital to the process is the Elections Officer — this year, that's Board member Ira Gladkova. They are appointed by the Board at the beginning of the term, and they work throughout the year to prepare, to talk with potential candidates, and to make certain that we are hitting all of our marks according to the Elections Timeline. The Elections Officer is also responsible for making all elections announcements, for clarifying policy to our members, and for working with the OTW's Legal team in case of questions that go beyond policy. The Elections Officer also fields questions from voters, and makes certain that any questions of eligibility are resolved as soon as possible. (Contact the Elections Officer here.)

    So those are the visible people. But we have more! Not many more, in order to protect donor confidentiality, but a few. Our trusty Systems committee, for example, will be watching our website traffic to make sure that the Elections site stays accessible, and to address any slowdowns if they happen.

    The last roles involved are filled by two members from our Webmasters committee. The OTW Webmasters all work on the Elections website until it's time to lock it up securely — that's a minimum of two weeks out from the election — and up until then, they apply updates, double-check software, and conduct rigorous tests of both the ballot and the ballot tallying. At two weeks before the election, the Elections site is locked down. All existing site accounts (including those belonging to all other staff) are deleted, leaving only two. Those two then create the ballot according to the Elections Officer's instructions. In that next week, the OTW Development & Membership committee delivers a list of eligible voters to the Elections officer, as a list of email addresses only, dropped in the OTW's secure file vault. Half of the list is then deposited into each of the elections Webmasters' vault spaces, and they begin to create the voting accounts. In order to create them, they use to generate an 8-digit random number to use as an account name, and pair it with a voter email address. No list is created of these accounts, and no record of which number goes with which email is easy to generate. It's not impossible! Just too much trouble for someone to do accidentally. All of these accounts are created as inactive, which becomes important in the next step.

    The first big milestone that impacts the elections Webmasters is one week prior to the voting period; that's when all of our voters get their informational email, including their account information, a link that will lead to the ballot once it goes live, and a basic outline of how the process will work. The text of that email is created by the Elections Officer, and the elections Webmasters enter the text as an automatic website message that is triggered by account activation. At the one week mark, all accounts are activated, sending out those messages.

    The next week allows us to address any emails that went astray and correct them before voting day. (This year we had a few sbcglobal emails disappear without a trace — we think we've heard from everyone who might have had that problem, but if you think you didn't get your email, contact the Elections Officer!) The elections Webmasters also make any necessary edits or additions to the Elections site, since they are the only ones with access — like the Candidate Profiles that were posted recently, and all elections-related news posts.

    On the day the election opens, the elections Webmasters change the automatic account activation message to new text that announces that the ballot is open, and contains all necessary voting information. Then, just before the ballot becomes active (it's on an automatic timer) they trigger the email message to all voters by deactivating all voter accounts, and then reactivating them.

    The elections Webmasters split the 48-hour voting period into four hour shifts, each taking six. Each shift means that person is "on duty" — they are ready to troubleshoot any account access problems the Elections Officer contacts them about, and they also help to create that audit trail. At the end of each four-hour shift, the Webmaster on duty takes a screenshot of all ballot results as of that moment, zips the resulting images, and drops them into the Election Officer's vault space. All results are capped each time, meaning that any changes to existing votes would be apparent in the case of examination. Both are on duty for the final shift, and both make separate screenshot packages and deposit them in the vault.

    Once the ballot has closed, the Elections Officer communicates the results to the candidates and to the voters, and posts them publicly. If any candidate chooses to question the result, the screenshots made throughout the process in the web administrative interface would be examined and recounted, as well as potentially corroborated with information from the Systems committee.

    We like to think knowledge is power! Or at least we think that our voters would like to know what's happening behind the scenes! We hope this has answered a few questions. Happy voting!

  • OTW Elections – What the Bylaws Mean for the Coming Term

    By .Ira Gladkova on Tuesday, 15 November 2011 - 6:51pm
    Message type:

    Although polls have yet to open for our 2011 election, we're already thinking ahead to 2012. As some of you may have noted, the circumstances of the current election present a complication for next term. There are a total of seven seats on the Board, and Board members are customarily elected to three-year terms. We have four open seats in this election; two are from terms that ran out this year, and two are from Board members retiring before their terms are up (both would have had one more year). Meanwhile, the three Board members staying on were all elected last year, and those terms aren't up for another two years. As things currently stand, this effectively leaves no seats open for a 2012 election. However, our current bylaws state that one-third of the Board must be elected every year.

    The Board has discussed this issue and consulted with the Legal chair. There are several potential ways of handling the situation, including holding an election in 2012 (the details of which would have to be determined) and/or amending the bylaws (to allow us to skip elections for a year). The Board has decided not to alter anything about the current election, as we feel that to do so would be unfair to the candidates and voters. Rather, the current Board believes that the course of action should be determined by the new Board in consultation with the Legal committee, as it is the new Board who will be most closely affected by any decision.

    In summary: the anticipated lack of open seats in 2012 is an issue that needs to be addressed before the next election season. However, nothing has been decided yet, and the issue will not affect how the current election is conducted.

    As a reminder, voting in the 2011 election opens in about a day and a half; polls open noon UTC 16 November (check the time in your area) and close 48 hours later, at noon UTC 18 November (check the time in your area). Voters will receive a reminder email before polls open; if you believe you qualify to vote in this election but have not received a voter email, please contact us as soon as possible!

  • 2011 OTW Elections Voting - The Process!

    By .Ira Gladkova on Tuesday, 15 November 2011 - 2:39am
    Message type:

    As we approach the voting period — polls open noon UTC 16 November (check the time in your area) and close 48 hours later, at noon UTC 18 November (check the time in your area) — we bring you one more resource: everything you ever wanted to know about the voting process!

    We're providing both textual and graphic explanations of the process, and cover how to cast your vote, how we tally the results, and plenty of examples. There's a short version for those who just want the basics, and, below the cut, a long version for those interested in the details. Let's go!



    The Short Version


    How to Cast Your Vote

    • You will be asked to log in with the password you chose for your voting account.
    • The ballot contains five candidates and a placeholder slot. Please leave the placeholder unranked! It is required by the voting software, but is not an actual candidate. For a more detailed explanation, check out the long version below.
    • Since there are only four available seats and five candidates, you will be asked to rank candidates in order of your first preference, followed by second preference, and so on.
    • You are not required to rank all the candidates — voters must rank at least one candidate, but otherwise can rank as many or as few as they wish.
    • Once you are satisfied with your rankings, click on the "Vote" button to cast your vote.
    • Warning: There’s no going back after you cast your vote, so please consider your choices carefully! :)

    How We Tally Results

    • Vote tallies will be done by modified IRV (instant-runoff voting), also known as preferential voting process. (You can read more about IRV here at our elections website, or in the second half of this post.)
    • If there is a simple majority of first preferences for a candidate (i.e., the candidate is the top choice on more than 50% of the ballots), then that candidate takes one of the seats and is removed from consideration for all the other seats.
    • After a candidate is seated, the initial ballots will be recounted to fill the next seat, and the next, until all seats are filled, removing from consideration the candidates selected for the previous seats. Since each vote starts over from the original pool, based on voter preferences, each round is its own separate selection process.
    • In any instance where there is no simple majority, the following steps will be taken to determine the winner of the given seat:
      1. The candidate with the fewest first preference votes is eliminated from this cycle.
      2. The votes that would have gone to the eliminated candidate are replaced by each affected voter's next preference, and the votes are re-tallied for the remaining candidates. This process is repeated until a 50% majority is reached and the seat is filled.
      3. Once that seat is filled, a new cycle of voting begins for the next seat, returning to the initial ballot. Any candidate already elected to a seat is removed from consideration, and all votes for those candidates are replaced by respective voters' next preferences. After this cascade, first preference votes are re-tallied.
      4. Steps 1 and 2 are repeated until a simple majority is reached for each seat.

    A Few Takeaways

    • This process lets us fill multiple seats with a single ballot and without any hierarchy among the elected candidates.
    • A candidate with the most votes overall may not necessarily get a seat if those votes aren't as high-preference. Similarly, a candidate with few first-preference votes early on in the process may win a seat as candidates are eliminated and preferences cascade. See the graphics for examples!
    • A lowest-preference vote is different from leaving a candidate off your ballot entirely. A low-preference vote can still eventually cascade into a high-preference vote through elimination of other candidates in that cycle. Leaving a candidate unranked means they don't get your vote at all.
    • Since, after the one required ranking, voters can rank as many or as few candidates as they wish, voters have many options for how to distribute their votes. But be careful — ranking only one candidate, for example, does not give that single vote any more "weight" and means you have no voice in ranking the remaining candidates — but it does mean none of the other candidates get any vote from you. Distribute your votes with care!


    We've had several awesome contributors put together graphical representations of the process, as well as a text-based walkthrough and a step-by-step look at some sample voting data in raw tabular form. Take a look!

    Below is a macro view of the process, representing votes by aggregate as slices in a pie chart.

     A graphic representing the OTW IRV process as flowchart in pie chart form

     A graphic representing the OTW IRV process as flowchart in pie chart form

    Please note that Purple, who was last to be eliminated from the first cycle and had many first preference votes in the first round of that cycle, did not get a seat in this example. Meanwhile, Red, who had relatively few first preference votes in the first cycle, won a seat in the second cycle. Wondering how this can work? Check out the next set of images, which shows how the votes move around!

    This next set of images provides a closer look, taking a very small data sample and showing the individual votes and how preferences cascade as candidates are eliminated. (Click on the images for full-sized versions.)

     a graphic representing the OTW IRV process as colored tiles in a grid  a graphic representing the OTW IRV process as colored tiles in a grid  a graphic representing the OTW IRV process as colored tiles in a grid

    The rest of this set of images, as well as the long version of the IRV explanation, the text-based example, and the tabular example are all below!

     a graphic representing the OTW IRV process as colored tiles in a grid  a graphic representing the OTW IRV process as colored tiles in a grid  a graphic representing the OTW IRV process as colored tiles in a grid  a graphic representing the OTW IRV process as colored tiles in a grid  a graphic representing the OTW IRV process as colored tiles in a grid  a graphic representing the OTW IRV process as colored tiles in a grid  a graphic representing the OTW IRV process as colored tiles in a grid  a graphic representing the OTW IRV process as colored tiles in a grid a graphic representing the OTW IRV process as colored tiles in a grid  a graphic representing the OTW IRV process as colored tiles in a grid  a graphic representing the OTW IRV process as colored tiles in a grid Visual

    Please note that B had the most votes overall, but is the only candidate to not win a seat, because those votes were lower-preference.



    The Long Version: IRV, a Closeup View


    How it works

    Instant Runoff Voting is an election system that allows a decision with a single round of voting by asking voters to rank their choices in order of preference. The biggest advantage of this system for our purposes is that generally, this eliminates the need for additional balloting to break a tie and elects an equal, rather than hierarchical, cohort of candidates.

    We use Drupal's decisions module, set to instant-runoff voting (aka preferential voting). Voters use a ballot that allows them to give a numerical rank to all candidates. Attempts to assign the same rank to multiple candidates are disallowed. Any candidate lacking a rank is given no weighting in the ballot. If a voter casts a ballot which ranks candidate A as fourth preference and candidate B as second preference, but lists no first or third preference, then the system represents candidate B as that voter’s first preferences, and candidate A as their next most preferred candidate.

    IRV is a system that determines only a single winner, and as the OTW elections are meant to fill all available board seats without establishing a hierarchy or ranking for the incoming members, the decisions software is reset after each round of seat selection to determine each winner — but this time with elections staff editing the ballot to delete the winner of the previous seat. This removes the winner, and their rankings, from the results, leaving all of the other candidates, and their rankings, in place. Any gaps left by the eliminated candidates are filled by cascading each voter's preferences for the remaining candidates, in the same manner as the example above where a voter picked only a second and fourth preference. The system then automatically tallies the votes again, returning a second winner.

    This process nearly eliminates the need for tiebreaker votes. If there is a tie and there are enough seats available to seat all the tied candidates, then all those candidates are seated and, if necessary, the process can continue. If there are not enough seats for all tied candidates, then the number of second preferences votes for those candidates will be tallied next, and so on until the seats are filled. Only in the extremely unlikely event of a tie for insufficient seats where all preferences match exactly is additional voting necessary.

    It is important to understand that this system revolves around relational voter preferences — all candidates in relation to each other, rather than absolutely. This is what is behind the cascade of preferences as candidates are eliminated, and also what allows this system to fill multiple seats with no hierarchy among the elected candidates. The cascade of votes makes it difficult (as well as undesirable) to draw clear hierarchies, even in the first cycle, where the candidate with the most votes overall is not necessarily the candidate who will end up with majority first preference and win a seat.

    Here is the process across multiple cycles, step-by-step:

    Cycle One (if there is no clear majority winner):

    1. First preference votes are tallied.
    2. The candidate with the fewest first preference votes is eliminated for this round, and all votes for that candidate are replaced by that particular voter’s next preference.
    3. The process is repeated, each time eliminating the candidate with the least votes and substituting the voter’s next preferences for the remaining candidates, until a clear majority of first preferences is determined. That candidate is seated.

    Where things get tricky is in Round 2, where you return to the initial ballots, but then the election staff eliminates the winner of Round 1. Then, if there is no simple majority after votes are tallied, they eliminate the candidate with the least number of first preference votes:

    Cycle Two:

    1. All votes for the candidate who won Round 1 are replaced by each affected voter’s next preferences.
    2. First preference votes are then tallied, just like the first round.
    3. If there is no simple majority winner, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated, and the process continues just as it did before until a majority is reached.

    Cycle Three:

    The third round also starts over from the entire original vote pool, removing votes for all candidates who have already been elected and substituting that voter’s next choice.

    Since each round starts over from the original pool, based on voter preferences, each round is its own separate selection process.

    More examples!

    To see a full example of a single cycle with sample candidates and a many votes, check out this text-based walkthrough of the process, which shows the votes and winners for each step of the process: IRV Walkthrough. The link goes to a series of web pages that walk you through the elimination rounds of a single cycle.

    To see an example of raw voting data in tabular form, check out this series of spreadsheets: IRV Spreadsheets. This works from the same data as the above example, but follows on from the first cycle through all four cycles. Click through the sheets, numbered at the top, to watch the process in action. This example also includes a tie, showing how the modified IRV process nearly eliminates the need for tiebreaker votes.

    The placeholder slot

    Wondering about the placeholder slot? Here's how that works: our balloting system allows voters to rank all candidates, independent of the number of seats — so if there are 7 candidates, all 7 can be ranked. However, a recent security upgrade to Drupal's decisions module — the software we use to run the election — changed this. The software now allows voters to rank all but one candidate — so if there are 7 candidates, you would only be able to rank 6 of them.

    Despite the software change, we prefer to give voters the choice of opting into (ranking) or opting out of (leaving off the ballot) each and every candidate. Giving a candidate lowest preference is a different choice from leaving a candidate off the ballot altogether, since low preferences can eventually cascade up into first preferences as other candidates are eliminated.

    For this reason, we have added one extra "candidate" to the ballot: a placeholder candidate that will take the unranked slot. You can still leave other candidates off your ballot, or you can choose to rank them all.

    We apologize for this somewhat awkward workaround, and hope to modify the software before next year's election so that it will no longer be necessary.



    We'd like to thank the many contributors who have helped make this post possible, including Aja, Allison Morris, Candra Gill, Ira Gladkova, Kristen Murphy, Renay, and Seventhe Dragomire.

    We hope this post has helped you understand the voting system and given you tools to help plan your vote. Happy voting!


Subscribe to Announcement