Selectricity Blog
June 19, 2015

Selectricity Retired

Filed under: News — Benjamin Mako Hill @ 15:08

After an eight-year run, I’m officially shutting down the hosted version of Selectricity. It’s list of bugs and issues with has grown over the years as all of its original creators have all moved onto other projects.

More importantly, the codebase itself has bitrot and is no longer safe for us to run. Selectricity is based on an early version of Rails 2 which is no longer supported with security updates upstream. Updating it was taking more time and effort than I have for it.

If somebody else wants to upgrade the software to use Rails 4 and wants to take over maintenance of the hosted version of Selectricity, I’d be happy to give our accounts on the server to do so. Contact me at and I’ll get you set up. Until then, all I can do is apologize to the people reading this who were hoping to run an election.

To the tens of thousands of people who have used Selectricity over the last eight years and to all of those have provided support, encouragement, and funding, thank you so much for an awesome run and for helping support what really achieved its goal of providing voting machine for the masses!

In the meantime, you can try using the Condorcet Internet Voting Service hosted by Cornell. It’s not quite as nice as Selectricity or as pretty, usable or, quick. But it’s more than serviceable and its well maintained.

Of course, the Selectricity has always been free software, distributed under the GNU Affero General Public License and remains available online for anybody who wants to run it themselves or borrow from the code.


September 7, 2010

New Project Page and Mailing List

Filed under: News — Benjamin Mako Hill @ 10:17

We’ve reflected a little bit and received some good feedback since our formal announcement of code yesterday and taken a couple additional steps to help lay groundwork for easier contribution and collaboration on, or support of, the Selectricity codebase.

First, we’ve moved our code into a project on Gitorious which we can now treat as the main development hub for Selectricity. For those that haven’t heard of it, Gitorious is a hosting provider for git that provides a nice interface for merge requests, source viewing, and more. It’s a bit like GitHub except is run (like Selectricity) as a free network service. We’ve updated the the documentation with this information. The project page to visit on Gitorious is here:

Second, we’ve created a mailing list to help coordinate development and support. Anyone is welcome to join and we’d encourage anyone to do so here:

September 6, 2010

Getting Selectricity Source Code

Filed under: News — Benjamin Mako Hill @ 15:54

In the last few months, a number of people have asked about the source code for Selectricity. We’re happy (and a little embarrassed) to announce the availability of all the code necessary to run Selectricity on another server under the GNU Affero General Public license which is a free software license released by the Free Software Foundation. An earlier version of the software, released by MIT, was under the permissive BSD license.

We’re happy because that means that everyone can use, modify, and share Selectricity and we can continue to move forward building a strong community of developers to help contribute to, improve, and maintain the project as some of our core developers move on to other challenges. It also means that you can run your own of Selectricity as long as you also share the code with your own users.

We’re embarrassed because we thought we’d announced this on this blog a long, long, time ago. Indeed, the source code has been available on the website (and mirrored in a number of places like the C4FCM CodebaseHQ repository) for well over a year. Indeed, quite a number of folks have been taking advantage of Selectricity in exactly the ways we described in the paragraph above. So many people seemed to know that we forgot, until very recently, that we had never made an announcement of the source availability on the project blog.

So this isn’t really the announcement of Selectricity’s first “release” — Selectricity was released a long time ago. Hopefully though, it means an increase in the visibility of the source code and in users knowledge of their freedom. We’ve also changed the Selectricity website so that every single page contains a link to page that includes instructions on how to get it and install the software to help remind users of the freedom they have.

In fact, we have been releasing two version of Selectricity for some time and both are available. One is the “live” version which runs on site. The second is the “development” (AKA “master”) version and it contains a bunch of new unreleased features like embeddable elections, kiosk mode, and more. They all basically work but there are are a few bugs, some serious testing, and a few remaining issues, that need to be dealt with before they can be merged into the live site. Maybe helping out with this is one great way you can help contribute to the project!

The best way to get Selectricity is just to download a copy of our git repository. Instructions on downloading and setting up Selectricity are online here:

Selectricity is written in Ruby on Rails which you’ll need to be (or become!) familiar with in order to hack on it. A list of other dependencies is included at the link above.

June 24, 2009

New Selectricity Kiosk Mode Sees Action

Filed under: News — Benjamin Mako Hill @ 12:16

Work on Selectricity continues and there are a bunch of new features which have been polished and tested for release soon. Here’s a pointer to a story that highlights one cool new feature in the pipeline.

Andrew Whitacre recently wrote on the MIT Center for Future Civic Media blog about how the Knight Foundation recently ran a competition where they distributed several thousand dollars of prize money to new projects. Andrew mentions in that post that the decision on where the money would go was made by all the attendees at the conference  using Selectricity.

What Andrew doesn’t mention is that we put into action a new mode for Selectricity that had been requested by quite a number of users. That new mode is a “kiosk mode” which basically means that it provides an interface to Selectricity more like a voting machine. At the conference, 10 computers were set up as voting machines and the entire conference took turns using these kiosks to vote like they would in a “real” election.

The election went smoothly but some feedback is being addressed from the experiment. Once that is done, kiosk mode will go live with a new version of Selectricity that includes a whole bunch of new features and addresses dozens of bugs and other issues reported by users.

Hold tight and keep your eyes on this space. We’ll post a blog post here as soon as a the release is live — almost certainly in the next couple weeks.

February 15, 2008

Free Culture Student Board Elected Using Selectricity

Filed under: News — Benjamin Mako Hill @ 13:08

Although the blog has been quiet, work on Selectricity has been plugging along. The next few months will see the announcement of a whole set of new features, high-profile new users, and some exciting news.

Last September, Selectricity was launched with the ability to create QuickVotes and to use Selectricity Anywhere. Since September, users have created thousands of QuickVotes on a variety of things — from deciding which movie to watch to what to name a pet! It’s also being put to use to select tons of meeting times — something we didn’t anticipate.

One of the most important features Selectricity will be launching soon is what we’re currently calling “full election” functionality. Details will follow but the basic idea is that this feature will provide a way to use Selectricity for more structured, traditional, organizational-style decision-making. QuickVotes are simple and unstructured — like polls. Full elections are more like something you’d use to elect the leader of an institution.

As part of preparing for this, we’ve successfully run through our first set of real full elections! The test group was the national non-profit organization Students for Free Culture and they used Selectricity to elect their board of directors.

Several months ago, SFC amended their bylaws to note that board members would be elected with a preferential election method. Selectricity made doing that easy and SFC graciously agreed to be guinea pigs for the software in the process.

That election finished last week successfully! There were 13 candidates and 16 voters so first-place votes were split up among the candidates. As a result, the group would have been very poorly served by a traditional plurality election that gave each voter only one vote. No SFC candidate got more than four votes and five people were tied for fifth place!

Notably, the first place winner in plurality didn’t even make into the top five using the preferential Schulze/Condorcet method that decided the election. While the candidate was ranked first more than any other candidate, he was very polarizing and was ranked near-last on most of the other ballots. The first place winner using Schulze/Condorcet (and most of the other methods) had only two first place votes but was in the top 3 or 4 in almost every ballot. It ended up being a real example of the power of preferential elections.

SFC has decided to publish the full details of their election results so you can check them out for yourself.

In the next couple weeks, we’ll be incorporating feedback from the SFC voters and administrators. After that, we’ll be opening the feature up to the public and you’ll be able to try it yourself. If you’d like to be notified when the feature goes life, send a quick email to and we’ll keep you in the loop.

September 5, 2007

Selectricity (Re)Launched

Filed under: News — Benjamin Mako Hill @ 10:08

After a long summer of work, we’ve launched a new version of Selectricity today with loads of improvements and features. This really marks a move from a proof-of-concept research prototype to a site that people can really use.

The site is live today with a brand new design by Courtland Allen with help from Alyssa Wright, and a whole bunch of improved results visualizations by Justin Sharps. There’s a huge amount of other work that’s been made to the site as well. Not all of it is ready to be launched today but we’ll be showing off new features in the next few weeks and months.

If you are interested in Selectricity, in hearing about our new features, or in tracking new features, please go ahead and subscribe to this blog which will, moving forward, be the best way to stay up to date.

Congratulations to John, Justin, and Courtland who put in long hours over the last few months to make this come together. Your work definitely shows!