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June 27, 2012

How to vote for the Hugos
Posted by Avram Grumer at 02:34 AM * 15 comments

In the current open thread, Elliott Mason pointed out that the Chicon 7 Hugo Ballot page doesn’t actually tell you how to vote! (Not only that, but the page has been designed with fill-in text forms instead of pull-down menus, so new voters have even less guidance than they would if the form were sensibly designed.) Maybe the instructions are somewhere else on the site, but if so, I couldn’t find them, and new voters shouldn’t be expected to hunt for them.

As a public service for first-time Hugo voters, here’s the process described on the official Hugo Awards site:

How to vote in the final ballot

The final ballot is a bit more complicated. You get to rank each of the final five nominees in order of preference. Place a 1 against the work or person you most want to win, 2 against your second favorite and so on. You are not required to vote for all five items — vote for only as many as you have read/watched/know about. Easy, isn’t it?

No Award

Under each category you will also be given the choice of voting for No Award.

You should vote for No Award as your first choice if you believe that none of the nominees are worthy of the Award, or that the Award category should be abolished. If you vote for No Award in any other position it means that you believe the nominees you placed above No Award were worthy of a Hugo, but that those not placed above it were not worthy. However, as we shall see, it is possible to rank nominees below No Award and have an effect on the outcome.

The online ballot says “None of the Above” instead of “No Award”. And it also doesn’t seem to mention when the voting deadline is: Tuesday, 31 July 2012.

If this causes Making Light readers to have a slightly higher level of representation in the voting, I can live with that.

Comments on How to vote for the Hugos:
#1 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 08:26 AM:

In here to comment that in my field this is called a modified (by being able to choose "No Award") Alternative Vote.

#2 ::: D. Eppstein ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 12:12 PM:

This is not so much about how to fill out the ballot, but instead about how to tally the votes once the ballots are all filled out, but anyway:

The Hugos use the "instant-runoff" system, meaning that until a clear winner is found they repeatedly eliminate the candidate with the fewest first place votes. This system does not have the Condorcet property: it is possible for a candidate to beat every other candidate in head-to-head contests, but still lose the overall election. For instance, this would happen when there are two equally matched candidates A and B whose supporters hate each other but both like C; C could be the Condorcet winner but eliminated in the first round.

Instead, the Schulze method looks appealing to me, and does have the Condorcet property. Its disadvantage (and perhaps this is important for the Hugos) is that it requires computer software to tally the votes rather than being easy to perform by hand, and it is not even easy to explain exactly how it works.

Another alternative that could be done easily enough by hand is the Borda count, the favorite method of voting expert Don Saari; this is the one where you tally 5 points for a first place vote, 4 points for a second place votes, etc., and just go by the plurality of points. It also doesn't have the Condorcet property, but as Wikipedia says "Borda count tends to favour candidates supported by a broad consensus among voters, rather than the candidate who is necessarily the favourite of a majority".

#3 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 08:51 PM:

I've done this before so it was easy, but you're right. By the way, when I realized I'd made a mistake, there was no way to bring up the original again, in spite of the voter ID# so I had to re-enter all my rankings. Not the end of the world, but that should not be difficult to write the software once then to pass it on to the next year's administrators. Or is this another case of fandom re-inventing the wheel every year?

#4 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 09:00 PM:

"Or is this another case of fandom re-inventing the wheel every year?"

It helps if someone tells the Hugo Administrator and next year that's Todd Dashoff. While LoneStarCon has yet to list departmental emails, their all purpose email appears to be:

#5 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 09:01 PM:

Whoops! That's .

#6 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 09:28 PM:

Serge Broom @3, I was thinking that they only need to get someone to write it right once, then keep using that code, but then I realized that that Worldcon committees probably haven't standardized on a common web back-end.

#7 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 11:21 PM:

"As you can see, this leads to a lot of ballot counting. While you can do this by hand, it is cumbersome and time-consuming to do so. Some years ago, a fellow named Jeffrey Copeland wrote a computer program to automate this process, and most recent Hugo Award administrators have used this program to count the ballots and produce the mounds of statistics so beloved by Hugo watchers."

#8 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 11:30 PM:

And before that, it was using a program that goes back to at least 1971 (in PL/I, no less).

#9 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2012, 11:33 PM:

Actually, if you look at the published balloting results, you can see that the voting does change, sometimes by quite a bit, as the trailers are eliminated. (The other places are determined by the same method, but first eliminating the nominees already placed.) That's why, unless there's really an overwhelming choice, it's close to impossible to predict who will win. (It also makes ballot-box stuffing pretty difficult.)

#10 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2012, 12:10 AM:

D. Eppstein @ 2:

Instead, the Schulze method looks appealing to me, and does have the Condorcet property. Its disadvantage (and perhaps this is important for the Hugos) is that it requires computer software to tally the votes rather than being easy to perform by hand, and it is not even easy to explain exactly how it works.

Here in Australia we use preferential / instant run-off for pretty much everything, and yes, one of its key advantages is that it's pretty easy to explain and pretty easy to count. Another is that, provided there are a large number of voters, your best strategy is to rank the candidates in the order you prefer: there's no "tactical voting".

Arrow's Theorem tells us that there is no perfect voting system (though first-past-the-post is clearly inferior), and so we have to choose trade-offs. While the Condorcet criterion is nice, I personally (and it is a matter of personal taste) choose simplicity as being more important.

#11 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2012, 09:30 AM:

Thank you for this explanation! I'm going to Worldcon for the first time this year. I'd asked experienced folks how the voting works, and was mystified by their explanations. Turns out that they hadn't looked at this ballot yet.

#12 ::: Diane Lacey ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2012, 10:27 PM:

Just wanted to let everybody know that we have heard you and we appreciate the input. The Hugo ballot has been updated.

#13 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2012, 11:48 PM:

P J Evans: I was very confused by last year's ballots until the runoff process was explained. What the Best Novel category actually showed was a large concordance between the readers of two of the authors; when one of them was eliminated, the other got almost all of the votes from those people.

#14 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2012, 12:02 AM:

I've seen that too. It's why looking at the results is so much fun.

#15 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2012, 02:47 AM:

And it's been common over the last few years for two or three Doctor Who episodes to get nominated (three, this year) -- you'd expect a lot of voters to rank those similarly, so when one gets eliminated most of its preferences would flow to another.

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