Reflecting on the CSM17 Ballots and Voting

We had the CSM17 election results last week, the culmination of a couple months of effort and the outcome was about as expected.  Null sec candidates won a majority of the seats.  That they won 8 rather than 7 was probably the closest we got to a surprise.

The CSM17 Winners

I am being a bit glib with that statement, but only just.  The CSM has changed over the years, but ever since null sec realized that if they didn’t have a seat at the table that non-null players would happily put null sec play styles on the chopping bloc for their own benefit, the null sec blocs have used their numbers and organizational power to see that they were not only represented, but over represented.

And like the outcomes, the responses to the results have been just as predictable.

Fortunately CCP gives us a lot of data about the election so we can all pour through the results to our heart’s content.  Angry Mustache, newly elected to the CSM, took over Suitonia’s old role and converted the ballot data, which is all just numbers in a file, into a spreadsheet in order to display the various ballots that were cast.

Then KZDavid took that data and created a summary chart that groups all the ballots by the top three candidates on them in order to make the ballot data a bit more digestible.  I am going to steal the updated version of his chart for the basis of the next part of this post.

KZDavid’s CSM17 Ballot Summary Chart

I tallied up the totals for ballots that had three null sec candidates at the top (I had to give Hy Wanto Destroyer a pass because he was second or third on a number of null sec ballots, but I didn’t count any where he was first) and came up with 15,249 ballots cast, which represents 49% of 30,814 total ballots submitted in the election.

Is null sec half of the game?  I don’t think so.  It is certainly more that the long discredited 15% number that has bandied about for years.  And we saw 35% of those logged into the game just in Delve back at the second battle of M2-XFE.   But even if null sec isn’t half the total active game population, they don’t have to be.  Only Omega accounts, those who are subscribed via real world money or PLEX, are allowed to vote.

I also don’t know how many Omega accounts are active in the game.  I have been down “the how many people play” path before.  I would have guessed at a number around 100,000 a year ago.  It is probably less now, but it seems pretty clear that not every Omega voted.

So null sec votes in greater numbers than other areas of the game.  In fact null sec votes in numbers almost equal to all other areas of the game combined, and in an election, voter numbers matter more than total numbers.

Null sec also votes with greater focus and/or organization.  More than one third of those null sec votes, or more than one in six of all ballots cast, were for the top of the Imperium ballot.  That was enough to elect three candidates in the first round and still trickle down some votes to the fourth spot on the ballot.

Other null sec groups voted in smaller numbers, but with similar focus, sticking to the ballot endorsed by their leadership, and the top candidate on all of the null sec group ballots was elected.

And so null sec is represented beyond its numbers in the game, because even the most pro-null player isn’t going to insist that 80% of the game is out in 0.0 space.

How do we change that?

First, I am going to assume that somebody wants to change the way things are just based on the amount of bitching.

I am also going to assume that CCP wants to maintain the whole elected council aspect of the CSM as that stirs up a bunch of game coverage, even if a lot of it is within specific niches of the community.  Those who say that the CSM is just a PR exercise are not wholly wrong.

And, finally, I am not going to suggest the unlikely.  High sec, low sec, and wormhole groups are not going to suddenly come together and organize into any sort of effective voting bloc.  It isn’t impossible, but it requires a lot of work.  You cannot just wait until next year when CCP announced the CSM18 election schedule and think, “I’ll start on my campaign now!”

If you’re not on a null sec ballot and you aren’t famous, you should probably start campaigning today.  You don’t have to be overt, but you should start getting your name out there, engaging in good faith discussions about the game, and generally laying the groundwork.

So, in thinking this through, I have come up with two things that CCP could do to try and change the makeup of the council.  And one of them will actually work.  They are:

  • Pack the Council
  • Put Voting in the Game

Put Voting in the Game

We’ll start with the second item first, putting voting in the game, as it is the least likely of the two to change anything.

The idea is to get more people to vote.  Early on many critics of complained that CCP was not doing enough to get out the vote.  To CCP’s credit, they have… if slowly… over time piled on more and more ways to tell people about the CSM elections.  We’re at the point where it is on the launcher, announced in a pop-up at login, comes to you via the email address associated with your account, gets a dev blog, a login event, in-game voting information stations, and CCP sponsors a host of candidate interviews.

So they have been putting in some effort.

But in the end you still have to leave the game and go to the web site, get logged in, which for me means dragging out my phone and finding the Google Authenticator app, navigate to the right page… because when I logged in it didn’t return me to the voting page I had started at… and figuring out to vote in something of a sub-optimal UI.

It isn’t a horrible experience.  But it isn’t the best experience either.

So the operating theory for some who still think CCP is deliberately suppressing the vote to favor null blocs… I kid you not… is that what CCP needs to do is put voting in the game.

And I could see that as an improvement.  Put it in The Agency, give it a decent UI, pop that at login every time somebody enters the game during the election until they have voted, and given them something… some ISK or some skill points or an “I voted for CSMXX” hat… once they have voted.

They could even make it a polling interface in The Agency that they could use for other questions or issues with the player.  It doesn’t even have to be used for serious things all the time.  You could have votes for favorite faction cruisers just for grins.

And, of course, if an Alpha account logs in CCP can remind them that the franchise is for Omegas, so please subscribe to vote.

Done right, it could boost the election turn-out.

Would it make a difference to the results?  Maybe?  I don’t think you’re going to roll back null sec bloc votes to less than six seats.  But maybe it keeps null sec from grabbing eight seats again.

Pack the Council

This option will work, if your goal is simply to get a few more non-null sec voices on the CSM.  Basically, CCP just needs to go back to a larger council.  If CSM17 had been 12 players rather than 10, there would have been two more non-null sec voices.  If it had been 15, there would have been five more non-null sec players elected.

The coordinated, targeted, ballot oriented voting of the null sec blocs goes deep on a few candidates quickly, then peters out.  If you go back to my election results post and look at the order of elimination, you have to go backwards quite a ways before you find another null sec candidate.  If they missed the early trickle down of vote, they did not hang out for long.  Pando was a rare exception, squeaking in due to broad support outside of his bloc.  But the fifth candidate on the Imperium ballot, Hyperviper1, was out in round 16.

So CCP could get wider representation on the council fairly easily by just having more people on it.

CCP reduced the size of the council to ten with the CSM12 election because they wanted to fly the entire council to Iceland for the summits.  There was some immediate analysis about how that would affect representation.  What has come to pass is that null sec owns 6-8 seats on the council.

CCP could expand the council and bite the bullet on the cost of a comping a couple more people for a trip to Iceland.  But given that Covid has kept there from being a live summit for a couple of years now, they might just opt to keep them remote in any case.  That would be a disappointment to many, as getting to know the CCP team socially creates a bond that makes them easier to work with.  But it wouldn’t surprise me.

What Will Happen?

Probably nothing.

The status quo serves CCP’s needs when it comes to publicity and player engagement and looking like they’re listening.

Would they like a more diverse council?  Probably.

Would they spend another dime to get it?  Probably not.

Would they listen to a more diverse council any more than they currently do? Not a chance.

But if they did want to change something, they do have options.

3 thoughts on “Reflecting on the CSM17 Ballots and Voting

  1. kiantremayne

    Ah, democracy. When you don’t have it, people cry out for it. When you do have it, there’s an irresistible urge to tinker with the mechanics to get the ‘right’ result out of the machine. Which is never going to end well because what one side sees as justice someone else will see as rigging the outcome against them. The current transferrable vote system, as you’ve pointed out, favours organised blocs, and null sec players are organised because they have to be. Even if you could increase the non-null sec turn out the extra voters won’t be organised, especially as you’ll be scrapping the bottom of the “don’t know, don’t care” barrel.

    One possible solution might be to add a couple of extra CSM members who aren’t elected but are picked by CCP from the list of unsuccessful candidates specifically because they bring a different viewpoint to the table. Undemocratic and bound to attract accusations of them being CCP’s lapdogs, but it would get some diversity into the CSM.

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  2. Anonymous

    CCP ignores the CSM when it pleases them even if the CSM is near-united on a position. I voted, but I don’t have any illusions that “viewpoints” matter on the CSM.

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  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Kiantremayne – You are close to the key issue with that suggestion, that issue being there is no reason a focus group needs to be an elected body. CCP could just pick a counsel, or set up a focus group for a specific issue. They have done the latter in the past. They are not good at it and the outcomes are not noticeably improved by it, but they can do it.

    The general conclusion is that CCP does the election thing because it makes them unique and brings attention to the game. It isn’t as though the elected CSM does nothing, but an appointed CSM wouldn’t be more active or more involved, so might as well get the PR benefit of the election.

    @Anon – In the end the CSM ends up battling CCP, trying to head off bad ideas. I appreciate candidates elaborating on their experience and expertise, but anybody who has a grand plan they want to implement on the CSM is unclear on their real role and headed for disappointment.

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