Selectricity Blog
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.


  1. Really interesting to see how Selectricity, and Schulze/Condorcet generally, work in this kind of real-world scenario. I particularly dig the beatpath visualization at

    Comment by Joe — February 15, 2008 @ 14:21

  2. Thanks Joe! We spent a bunch of time thinking about how to do this. I’m glad you like it!

    Comment by Benjamin Mako Hill — January 10, 2013 @ 18:30

  3. […] traditional voting methods would have failed badly for the organization’s needs – preferential voting through Selectricity found an organization leader who was the top choice on only two ballots, but was ranked 3rd or 4th […]

    Pingback by …My heart’s in Accra » Simple examples of cool ideas - last post from MIT conference — June 13, 2008 @ 16:14

  4. For approval, have you considered including an approval cutoff ?

    For example, it could be a line that the user can move up and down. All candidates above the line are approved and all candidates below the line are not approved. This would seem to fit in well to your vote entering system.

    Comment by raphfrk — July 31, 2008 @ 04:14

  5. I would love to do this! Unfortunatley, the original team is not actively building new features. If someone else were to work on this and submit it, I would *love* to include the feature!

    Comment by Benjamin Mako Hill — January 10, 2013 @ 18:30

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