Thursday, July 1, 2010

SLSA's New Voting System

submitted by Lissa Pinion

On June 1, 2010, three new Directors (Harbor Piers, Countess Decosta, and Kimmy Jigsaw) were voted into office by 15 voters using the new voting machine system. If you have been a member of the Second Life Surfing Association (SLSA) for any length of time and have participated in the election process, you know it was a lengthy ordeal with the possibility of errors both on the voter end as well as the election panel end. Lost or improperly submitted notecards, not all members of the election panel may receive your notecard, etc. Potential voters often voiced concerns with anonymity and with having to send their notecard to five individuals. SurfWatch recently caught up with former SLSA Director and creator of the new voting machine, Sally LaSalle, to talk about the new voting system and how it impacts the SLSA.

SurfWatch: Can you tell us the reason behind creating a voting machine?
Sally LaSalle: The voting machine was conceived during my previous term as Director back in 2008, there were two main reasons for building it. The first reason was that the previous voting method was often perceived as complex and confusing. It relied on the voters creating a no modify notecard with their choices on it and sending it to each of 5 Directors. Voters often set the permissions incorrectly, causing them to have to resubmit.  Often also, not all the Directors received all cards, so it made the tallying process complex and slow.  The second reason, is that the election panel, made up of the current directors, had information about who voted for who. Althugh forbidden to speak about specific voter votes by the constitution, there were still members that were reluctant to vote fearing (however implausible) potential disfavour by incumbent and outgoing directors.

The new voting "machine" (it's really just a script) , addresses these two issues.  To vote now, the voter simply clicks the box, selects and confirms their candidates and receives a receipt.
"Click, Pick, Check, Save"
As for anonymity, the script provides no access ever either to the election panel or the voting machine owner, to information about who voted for who, nor even running tallies for specific candidates during the election.
The script is open source meaning that it is provided for anyone to view in the SLSA forum, and it also can be received by the voter during their vote. This makes vote tampering impossible. A great deal of thought went into the design of the script to make sure it met the goals of the design.

SW: Sally, with the first voting session completed, what do you see as the biggest improvement and what do you see as an area to be improved on?
SL: Well, the past election was a bit of a "dead rubber" being that there were 3 candidates for 3 positions, so the result was never in question. I think this is the primary reason for the low voter turn out (15 voters). Given that however, I took a vox pop from some of the voters asking them what they thought of the new process.  All the feedback was very positive, saying it was simple easy and clear.

SW: Anything else you would like us to know about the new voting machine?
SL: There were a couple of minor teething issues. The system didn't check the spelling in the eligible voters list so a couple of eligible voters couldn't place their vote on the main machine. This has been corrected, as well as the ability to add voter names after the election opens so that eligible people missed can be added if necessary.  The other bit of interesting feedback, from one voter was that they would have liked to have registered an "invalid vote" as "an expression of their opinion about one or more candidates".  Oh and a bit of trivia, the blue pattern on one side of the voting box is a 3D stereogram of the SLSA logo, so if you stare at it and cross your eyes a bit you will see a 3D image of the SLSA logo :P

SurfWatch also conducted a "man on the street" style interview asking, "What did you think about the new voting machine?"

"I think it's brilliant. It's very easy and it's confidential. A huge improvement over the old notecard system. I think this new voting process will generate a much larger voter turnout!"-Tauri Tigerpaw

"I like it! With a few reservations (laugh).........Having an automated system prevents potential problems with miss counting. It also provides a secure way of keeping the tally secret until the voting period has ended.

A MAJOR drawback is that it does not allow partial votes. That is to say it does not allow
the members to actually vote for the folks they support without voting for the minimum number of candidates. In this last "vote" it was totally meaningless as 3 folks ran for 3 seats.
So to add insult to injury (my vote did not count even though it wouldn't have mattered anyway) I would prefer to see a system that allows the members to actually vote for the candidate(s) they support even if (in normal circumstances) their vote would be disallowed.

Again, I like the idea but the information gained by allowing "real" votes would better serve the board in my opinion." -VW Sands

"They are a good solution and gives instant results, without a need for the election committee to count the votes. From my experience, I can say it always took a lot of time and there were errors in counting votes, which had to be corrected. Also, I recall a few times when voting cards were not sent to all committee members, not being able to find cards in my inventory, or not being able to read them. With the machine, those problems disappear. The main thing about the voting machine is that surfers can be sure the results are correct. I especially like that the script is an open source, which was my condition for supporting the project. Well done SLSA." -Abel Halderman


Kantbe Thursday said...

Sally said, "the blue pattern on one side of the voting box is a 3D stereogram of the SLSA logo, so if you stare at it and cross your eyes a bit you will see a 3D image of the SLSA logo".

Wouldn't that make it a stare-o-gram?

I thought the voting machine was great, btw, even though I just got cross eyed and passed out before I could see the 3D image.

Great job, Sal!!!!

ChiFlora said...

Hey folks, thanks for your comments :)

VW: I feel your pain!! Unfortunately I tried to have this section of the constiutution repealed: 2.1.4. SLSA Members eligible to vote cannot vote for less than the number of open seats
otherwise their vote will become invalid and not counted.

But no-one commented on it either way, so we are stuck with it for the moment until a future constitutional change.

Abel: Point of clarification, the script was *always* envisioned by me from the original proposal as being open source, that is not something that was added later.

K: :) haha,see thats coz you were looking for an SLSA logo, it really says "Give Sally all your money!" (as a sublimal message)

Desirae said...

It was Sally's idea to keep it open source from the start. So everyone can see what the voting machine is doing. Awesome job, Sally
I am glad that I could help Sal and be her beta tester to find bugs :-)
The only thing the SLSA had to do with it, was the modification of the constiutition. (where Sally did all the work as well)
Again: Bloody awesome job, Sally