Sunday, June 5, 2011

SLSA Election Interview

In light of some of the recent call for a revote in the SLSA Board of Director June 1st election, SurfWatch interviewed this election's Election Committee Chairperson, Kantbe Thursday, to find out more about what happened and what is being planned for the revote.

SW: Thank you for your time in talking with us, Kantbe. We know a lot of people have questions about what happened and we appreciate your time to visit with us.

KT: No problem. I look forward to an opportunity to explain a few things and talk about some of the concerns and suggestions people have expressed.

SW: So, Kantbe, what actually did happen?

KT: There were two issues.

Firstly, the voting machine wasn't configured properly between Midnight until about 3:30AM SLT on June 1st. I wasn't able to set the machine up, so I wrote some brief instructions so someone else could get it set up in time based upon some files I had prepared. My instructions were poor, and resulted in a set up that wouldn't have worked properly. It was totally my fault. The only way to recover from that problem was to reconfigure the machine and restart the scripts. Unfortunately, there was no way to gather any of the voter information for an votes that were cast during that timeframe, and no way to manually collect anything that would have been verifiable.

The second issue was an SL sim server issue. It didn't have anything to do with problems with the voting machine nor its scripts. There was a server upgrade at some point after the election closed and when I was able to check it that morning. All of the vote tallies were contained in the voting machine's memory. The server upgrade stopped the script that allowed access to the tallies. After spending a couple of hours trying all sorts of ways to restart the machine while preserving it's memory, it was realized that there just wasn't a way to recover.

So, the only choice is to have another election.

SW: One question being asked is why it took so long to notice the problem and send out the notice for the revote. From what you've said, it sounds like you knew a revote would be required sometime shortly after the election closed.

KT: Actually, the voting machine did all of its vote closing housekeeping properly. All of the Election Committee members were sent their machine generated emails of the voter encryption codes. It wasn't until I went to get the tally report from the machine around 4AM SLT on June 2nd that I saw there was a problem. Sally LaSalle, who created the voting machine, and I worked on trying to get the tallies from the machine when RL would allow us the time. We worked on it later in the day, both of us taking time from our RL jobs for a couple of hours. It wasn't until closer to 1 or 2 PM SLT on June 2nd that we determined a revote was the only choice.

I had to report this to the Board of Directors and get their feedback on how to proceed. Since we're an international group, and because we do have a RL, it took until June 3rd to get enough feedback to proceed with the notice of a revote.

SW: Some have asked why we don't just go back to the old way of using notecards. Has that been considered?

KT: It was briefly considered and discussed by the Board.

However, the current voting machine has been used successfully in 5 elections. This current version was also tested repeatedly before being put into production and it performed flawlessly. The old way based upon notecards may seem like a pretty easy and simple way of handling things, but anyone who has served on an election committee from that time can attest to the problems and delays. Issues included things like unreadable notecards, incomplete notecards, different number of notecards being sent to committee members, and differences in manual counts. Again, since the SLSA is a body of globally dispersed people, trying to resolve issues in a timely fashion always has the challenge of time zone differences and the availability of individuals.

The old notecard approach also had no real privacy of a person's vote. Since the notecards had to be read and manually tallied, the way someone voted was known by the committee members. Regardless of whether or not there was ever a problem caused by this, some people were reluctant to vote, or worse, reluctant to vote the way they truly wanted, for fear that someone would find out how they voted. The voting machine guarantees voter and vote privacy.

Something equally important to these issues, is that the use of the voting machine for our Director elections is part of our current Constitution. We can't use a different approach without a Constitutional amendment. An amendment like that requires a general meeting of our members, a motion for a change, and then a vote (using the voting machine, btw). A motion passes if 2/3rd of a majority of all of our eligible voters (not just the people who cast a vote) approve the motion.

SW: Since it's been decided that a revote with the voting machine will be done, when will this actually take place?

KT: Likely, it will take place during the week of June 5th. A minor revision of the script has been made and tested to try to minimize another issue with a sim server upgrade or sim failure. The revision has been tested and we just need to get a couple of other things in order. A notice will be sent to the group and an announcement will be made on the forum, since I also had reports that not everyone saw the notice about the election problems, which only goes to show that SL communications of all sorts can have issues from time to time.

SW: Thank you for explanations and time, Kantbe

KT: You're very welcome. I'm keeping my fingers, toes, and eyes crossed for this next one.

1 comment:

Kantbe Thursday said...

I need to post a correction to something I said in the interview. I said, "A motion passes if 2/3rd of a majority of all of our eligible voters (not just the people who cast a vote) approve the motion."

The 2/3rd majority in this case is of those who voted.

- Kantbe