The 2014 OpenStack Individual Member Director Elections and Red Hat

tl;dr – the affiliation limit means that at most one of the two Red Hat affiliated candidates can be elected. The cumulative voting system makes it likely that both of us running seriously damages both of our chances of being elected. A preferential voting system like Condorcet or STV would not have this problem.

At Red Hat, those of us who contribute to OpenStack take very seriously our responsibility to put what’s good for the project first and foremost in our minds – to wear our “upstream hat”, as we like to say. That’s especially true for me and Russell Bryant.

However, now that the candidate list for the 2014 OpenStack Individual Member Director Elections has been finalized, we find ourselves wrestling with the fact that Russell and I are both running as candidates. Two aspects of our election system make this a problem. First, the cumulative voting system means that those who would be happy to vote for either me or Russell are forced to choose between us – essentially, we are damaging each others’ chances of being elected. Secondly, the affiliation limit means that even if we were both lucky enough to receive enough votes to be elected, one of us would be eliminated by the limit.

The combination of these two issues means that we have to factor our affiliation into our decision. The rules place affiliation front and centre in election system, even though Individual Member Directors are not elected to represent their employer.

Now, I’m personally guilty of not pushing this election system issue hard enough over this past year. At one point I favoured experimenting with a tweak to the cumulative system over a more dramatic change because I found the prospect of getting a majority of over 25% of our enormous electorate to vote in favour of a change so daunting. I want to be completely open about this decision we now face because I want to help raise awareness about how important an issue it is.

Given that Red Hat is a Platinum Member and has a automatic seat on the board, the options we’re weighing up are:

  1. Continue with both Russell and me on the ballot, accepting the risk that we’re damaging each others chances.
  2. I or Russell remove ourselves from the ballot, giving the other of us the best possible chance of being elected.
  3. Brian Stevens steps down from the board and I or Russell takes his place, giving whichever of us remains on the ballot the best possible chance of being elected.

It’s not an easy decision. We both feel we have something to offer on the board. Both of us would be very proud to be elected to represent the Individual Members. Both of us feel that Brian Stevens (our CTO who we greatly respect) is the best possible representative for Red Hat on the board.

We will make a decision on this before the election, but right now we don’t see any of the options as being particularly better than the others. But, at the very least, I hope everyone will find this useful as a concrete example of why our election system needs to change.