Below are notes, recommendations, and summary information from the 2015 Wikimedia Foundation Elections Committee (Committee).
The Wikimedia Foundation elections 2015 were conducted from April - June 2015. The elections were broken into one round for the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) elections and one round for the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees (Board) elections.
The Committee was appointed by the Board, and then selected a coordinator amongst the members to help coordinate the committee's tasks.
There were 11 candidates for the FDC and 2 candidates for FDC Ombudsperson. Voting in the FDC elections was held 3–10 May. There were 1173 votes cast, with 1101 valid votes being given, the difference being votes which were recast. In reviewing of the votes, the committee did not strike any votes. Five candidates were selected by the community to serve two-year terms on the FDC and one candidate was chosen to serve a two-year term as FDC Ombudsperson.
There were 20 candidates for the board. Voting in the Board elections were held 17–31 May. There were 5512 votes cast, with 5167 of those being valid. The 345-vote difference comes from recast ballots, where eligible voters recast ballots to change their votes, and struck votes, of which there were 4.
The primary challenge to this year's election committee was the narrow time window allotted to the committee to complete its tasks. Additionally, there were a number of long-term issues (discussed more in detail below).
In the 2013 elections, voting in the FDC and Board elections were done at the same time. Based on feedback from that year's Committee and community members, as well as the goal for increased number of candidates, the Committee opted to separate the voting. The data suggests that this resulted in less participation in the FDC elections, but more complete participation in the Board elections. Future elections may want to consider ways to simplify the ballot to allow for both elections to be held at once to increase FDC elections participation, or continue to keep them separate. Separating the elections did seem to decrease voter confusion, and there were fewer complaints about confusion over there being two elections. The increased voter participation in the Board elections implies there was not voter fatigue.
An effort was made to increase the diversity of candidates for this election. More extensive outreach was done to local community and Wikimedia movement affiliates (Affiliates) to recruit candidates from diverse backgrounds, geographic location, and languages. Additionally, a letter from the Wikimedia Foundation (Foundation) was posted to encourage candidates to run in the elections.
To help facilitate this goal, a new nominating process was introduced for this election. For the first time in a Foundation election, candidates could be nominated by other community members, in addition to the self-nominations utilized for past elections.
These efforts resulted in 20 Wikimedians running for the Board and 13 candidates for FDC positions. There were more candidates for the Board elections than any past board election, and more FDC candidates than the first FDC election.
A greater ongoing recruitment and candidate development effort should be developed to identify potential candidates earlier and help develop their skills to increase the potential success of candidates from areas currently underrepresented.
Get out the vote
A concentrated effort was made by the Board and Committee to increase voter participation. The Committee utilized CentralNotice banners and MassMessage to promote the elections. The Board's Chair engaged in a contest with Affiliates to help increase local community engagement. The Committee also tested the use of memes on social media to promote the board election.
In the future, dedicating more time to banner creation, and testing the banners against disability standards, would be valuable. Additionally, use of Echo to notify potential voters would be ideal in the future.
The memes helped get out the English vote, but were not provided in other languages as there was concern of the humor not translating well. To address this in the future, a competition amongst local communities or affiliates to produce the best election memes in their own language would both increase the number of memes, their usage, and the languages they are available in. It may also be valuable for Wikimedia Foundations communications to investigate usage of memes for future notifications for multi-day initiatives.
Prior to the start of the election process, the SecurePoll extension was improved to make voting easier. In past elections, voting required moving between wikis, copying and pasting links, and in general presented a barrier to participation. The process was simplified to allow voting from Meta-Wiki with no copying and pasting of links.
The ballot was expanded to include more detailed information about the candidates. The FDC elections displayed the candidate's statement, while the board elections utilized shorter statements provided by the candidates specifically for the ballot page. In the future, utilizing shorter statements for both ballots would be preferred. Additional enhancements to the ballot page, particularly making the column labels more prominent and visible as you scroll down the ballot, should be made in the future.
For the first time, the election was translated into 17 languages. Candidate statements, navigation, and the ballot page were available in the 17 most widely used languages across Wikimedia Projects. There were complaints of typos and incorrect translations, which were mostly not able to be fixed during the elections process. Future elections should consider expansion to additional languages, and a prolonged timeline to allow for more volunteer review of the translations (which were done by a professional firm given the 48-72 hour window to produce the translations).
In the final week of the Board elections, an email was sent to all eligible voters that have email addresses on file with the Foundation and are not on the no-email list. This resulted in significant spike in voting. Use of email in the future is recommended.
A number of technical improvements were made to the elections process prior to the start. However, additional technical issues were identified during the elections process.
- Incomplete voter list for initial hours of FDC voting. When the script to create the voter list was run, a small typo resulted in a few hundred voters being initially left out. This was resolved quickly, and there were no additional corrections to the voter list necessary.
- A "security token mismatch" error continues to exist in the SecurePoll extension, and fixing it should be prioritized before the extension is utilized again for elections. While the Committee believes the number of people affected by this bug were minimal and did not disproportionately affect any region or group of voters. Additionally, the error did not appear consistently. Ultimately a band-aid solution in the final days of Board election voting was provided by creating sock accounts for users and manually adding the sock account to the voter list. Efforts were made to diagnose and resolve the bug, however, it could not be replicated by the Committee or technical support staff during the time of the elections.
- The script for sending email notifications, in its initial run, sent notifications to bots and other ineligible accounts. The script was stopped and restarted with the issue mostly resolved. However, the script should be checked again for a possible cause of this issue before used for future elections.
- Not all elements of SecurePoll translate effectively, or accurately display the translation available. In particular the initial landing page on Meta-Wiki which takes you to Vote-Wiki does not utilize the translations stored on Vote-Wiki. Additionally, the extension does not communicate with the Translation extension. The language field for the error message replaces, rather than supplements, errors being displayed. Finally the fall-back use of Russian for the Ukrainian language raised concerns from members of the Ukrainian community.
There are tasks on the Phabricator Phabricator Elections project related to the 2015 and future elections. Aside from the above major issues, these are some recommendations to improve the SecurePoll extension, particularly in regards to language support and ballot display. Completion of tasks on this project prior to the next community elections would be helpful.
The 2015 Committee joins the 2013 Committee in supporting the creation of a Standing Elections Committee to better prepare and not have a rushed elections process. The Committee also recommends the creation of a Nominating Committee to help identify and develop potential candidates, and possibly assist with appointed board positions.
Additional information is available on the Standing Election Committee proposal.
Issues for future committee
These are some of the topics a Standing Elections Committee or future committee should consider:
- Improved documentation of election procedures and work of the Committee.
- Possible use of Phabricator, vs wiki, to track Committee tasks.
- Possible use of private wiki for Committee work and documentation.
- Review ability of affiliate employees to vote in the elections.
- Thorough review of possible voting methods.
- Ways to increase participation from non-editor Wikimedians.
This post mortem has been written and reviewed by these 2015 Elections Committee members:
- Please note that these notes will not be translated, but the primary contents of most notes will be included in the final post mortem - which will be available for translation once published by the committee.
- The Standing Election Committee proposal might be worth exploring and updating once this year's elections are completed. --Varnent (talk)(COI) 00:33, 13 April 2015 (UTC)
- The process for the election need to be described in a document before the operative work of the committe begins. Also the workorgansation and mandate for the committte, including its members needs to be documented.Anders Wennersten (talk) 07:58, 20 May 2015 (UTC)