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<nettime> Froomkin: Should You Register to Vote in ICANN's Board Elections?

     [please forward far and wide]


Should You Register to Vote in ICANN's Board Elections?

Webposted on 19 May 2000 

Michael Froomkin writes: It's probably time to register to vote
in ICANN's Board elections.[1] ICANN has given no hint of when
the registration period will close, and there is always the
danger it will close without warning, or with very little.

There are many reasons to hesitate -- your registration[1] will
be used to legitimate ICANN, and it has yet to demonstrate that
it deserves the legitimacy. But, ignoring ICANN is not going to
make it go away. One can decide later if the elections will be
fair enough to vote in, something that is still unclear. So you
may as well register now[1] before it's too late.

Candidates will be chosen by a NomCom[2] that has no one who
looks like or represents the average Internet user. It also has
no one from ICANN's Œloyal opposition' -- the people who have
been going to ICANN meetings or participating on line but tending
to disagree with the existing Board. So that is a legitimate
reason to worry. On the other hand, the NomCom promises[2] "open
and transparent" procedures including "posting its selection
criteria, timetables, and updated procedures" online "for public
review and comment". That's exactly what one would hope for, and
were it not for what ICANN has done to the word "transparency"[3]
so far, you could breath easier.

Candidates will be allowed to attempt to run without the NomCom's
blessing, but it may be difficult. The proposed rules for open
nominations[4] (ICANN calls it "self-nomination" although given
how high they placed the bar "nomination by acclimation" would
have been closer to the truth) have just been published today.
There's a lot to worry about in these rules­they threaten to
place unreasonable limits on outsider candidates, and also divide
up the electorate, but it is only a draft so it may be too soon
to panic. No, sorry, this is ICANN ­ it's time to post your
comment[5] and bite your nails.

Under the draft rules, in order to be nominated in the open
process candidates must get 10%, yes TEN PERCENT, of the eligible
voters in their region to endorse their nomination. They must do
this in 30 days, even though potential voters are only allowed to
endorse ONE candidate. Since no one knows who the electorate is
(voter lists are unpublished), and ICANN will be the conduit for
a limited number of communications from the would-be candidates,
you can imagine how many people are likely to qualify this way.
And of course the bigger and more representative (and diverse)the
electorate, the less likely a candidate can qualify. If four
votes of the NomCom suffices to be on the ballot, why shouldn't,
say, one hundred fellow petitioners suffice?

Other issues loom also: it seems as though the NomCom candidates
might get as much a month's head start on campaigning, which
hardly seems fair. Perhaps of greatest significance, however, it
seems voters from each region will only vote for candidates from
their own region. This is odd, since it is not how any other part
of ICANN works. Members of the functional constituencies, such as
the ASO or PSO, have to produce regionally diverse sets of Board
Members, but everyone in the group votes on all candidates.
Linguistic differences make this harder in the at large election,
but that problem will exist even within regions.

One consequence of this geographic division is to make "slating"
impossible ­ yet another way in which the existing Board keeps
making suggestions that have the effect of entrenching existing
majorities. Originally there were supposed to be nine directly
elected at large board members. ICANN first tried to eliminate
the direct elections, then when that caused protests, it
reinstated them but cut the at-large contingent down to five,
'temporarily' until a date unspecified, so they wouldn't be too
powerful. ICANN justified this on the grounds that the results of
online world wide elections were too unpredictable[6] (follow the
link and search for "at large membership"). It would be a cheap
shot to say that some people prefer unpredictable elections; the
truth is that these elections *are* an experiment, there are many
unknowns, *but no more than there are for other parts of the
ICANN structure*. Furthermore, the strategy of dividing up the
electorate will not scale up if ICANN ever does seat the nine
at-large Board members who were part of the original design.
There are only five regions, and nine doesn't fit well into five.

Perhaps the most important consequence of forcing the elections
into five single-memgber districts is that it makes
representation of geographically distributed ideological
minorities unlikely. If you think that viewpoints are not a
function of geography, at least for the sort of people likely to
vote in ICANN's elections, then a system where people had
multiple votes, and minorities could aggregate them in favor of a
single candidate would have done much more to ensure
representation of diverse viewpoints than what this draft of the
electoral rules contemplates.

Nevertheless, go ahead and register[1], if only as a form of
insurance. But understand that this is just another step on a
long road.

[1] <>
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