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World Sailing: Voting irregularities claimed on crucial Olympic vote

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz 3 Dec 2018 17:43 PST 4 December 2018

Several members of World Sailing's Council have complained that their votes at the 2018 Annual Conference were recorded incorrectly.

The vote in question was the first on the first day of the Annual Conference held in Saratosa, Florida in early November. It was to determine whether the controversial 2024 Olympic Events slate, selected in the Mid-Year Meeting should be re-opened and reconsidered. A two-part urgent Submission [037-18] from the World Sailing Board sought to facilitate consideration of this re-opening process.

At the end of the first vote, it was declared that the move to re-open had received 79% of the votes - 4% more than the required 75% threshold.

A second vote quickly followed which resulted in the Mixed One Person Dinghy event being dropped and a Mixed Two Person Keelboat event substituted.

Over the weekend just past, the draft minutes of the World Sailing Council meeting were circulated for confirmation, by the Councillors. A schedule was attached showing how individual Councillors had their votes recorded on the various issues and Submissions over the weekend.

A copy of the provisional Minutes and Voting Schedule was forwarded to longtime sailing administrator at a US national and international level, Tom Ehman, who published the document on his website SailingIllustrated.com

At least three Councillors who were against the urgent Submission 037-18 from the Board of World Sailing, have claimed that their votes were either recorded as "Approve" for the controversial issue, or are listed as "Abstain". A fourth is believed to have made similar claims

All three, Zvi Ziblat (ISR), Peter Hall (CAN), and Georgy Wossala (HUN), spoke against the Submission and said they voted "Reject".

On the Voting Schedule, Ziblat and Hall are shown as "Approve", while Wossala is shown as "Abstain".

If the voting sheet is re-scored with the claimed "Reject" options selected, the vote on Submission 037-18 receives 11 "Rejects" with 29 "Approves" or 72.5% and fails to meet the required 75% threshold for the 2024 Events to be re-opened.

Having been passed, it appears incorrectly, through the first stage, the second part of the Submission called for the insertion of the Mixed Two Person Offshore Keelboat, only needing a simple majority vote to be adopted - which it received.

Voting was made via three button handheld device, interfaced to a software application to score and shows, via an overhead projector, which voting pads had recorded a vote-response from each of the 40 Councillors present and entitled to vote.

The Councillors and Voting Pads were tested before the voting proper started with the 40 Councilors present pressing one of three buttons - "1" for Approve, "2" for Reject and "3" for Abstain.

There were two unused/spare devices which showed on the Voting screen as being active.

Each Council Member had a Voting Pad, which has a unique number which is tied back to that Councillor.

Two tests were conducted with the voting members of the Council ahead of the speeches for and against the Submission 037-18.

Most voting pads responded within the first 38 secs of the test - with three (excluding the two inactive pads) showing no response.

The first test vote failed with the final active device responding 1m 56secs after the start of the test.

The outcome of that test was that one voting pad still would not register a vote and was replaced for a second test.

Second test also has difficulties

The second test, showed a similar pattern of around 30 voting pads working correctly and ten pads working with difficulty to record a Council member's vote.

Over 30 seconds into the test - there were still nine active pads not sending a response.

After several instructions for Councilors to vote again, CEO Andy Hunt advised the meeting, 74 secs into the test that there were several Voting Pads which had responded in the first test, but were not responding in the second.

After 98secs assistance was called. A World sailing staff member identified the rogue voting pad/user and elicited a response from the pad after 138 secs had elapsed, without replacing the voting pad.

At that point, the test vote was declared to have completed satisfactorily, and it was closed.

The Debate and Voting

The Council meeting then resumed with Council members speaking for and against the Submission, which had earlier been passed by the Events Committee by just a single vote majority (7-6).

After 90 minutes of speeches, the voting commenced.

About 30 of the voting pads registered votes in the first 10 seconds.

After 16 seconds, the Council members were then asked to vote again to register a response from the seven devices shown as not having a vote recorded.

Jon Napier, Director of Legal Affairs and Governance, conducted the voting process advised Councilors that the additional pressing of the buttons would not cause double voting, as it just repeated the previous response.

That cleared some voting pads, but 20 seconds after the start of the vote there were three voting pads still showing as not having responded.

Repeated pressing of the keys on the voting pads, said to require a hard depression, cleared another. But 30seconds after the start of the vote there was still one voting pad showing as registering no response, in a different location to the first), and it required the intervention of technical support to register a vote.

The outcome of the vote was declared to be 31 votes for reopening, meaning there were nine against and the Submission had received 79% support.

All that was shown of the result, via the overhead projector, was a simple bar graph of votes for and against.

Following the practice of previous years, there was no confirmation of the vote by displaying a provisional vote on the wall screen - to allow Councillors to confirm their electronic vote had been recorded correctly, and the subsequent votes based on that decision could be taken.

It seems there was no paper-based system used to confirm the vote either.

It was only a month after the conclusion of the Annual Conference, when the draft Minutes were circulated to the Councillors, that the voting error became apparent.

The three named Council members had all supported the retention of the Finn class as a men's single hander, via the Mixed One Person Dinghy event. They had been making speeches and rallying support for the Finn's possible retention all week, but were recorded as not voting for the Event option which could have kept the Finn in the 2024 Olympic regatta.

The three Council Members have referred the matter back to World Sailing for their response. It is understood the Executive Committee will consider the matter at their next regular meeting.

It seems plausible that there was some issue with the Vote pad. The testing undertaken only checked the voting pad responded not that it was recording that response accurately. There was no individual verification of the vote entered by the Council member.

Alternately there could have been an issue during the phase when Council members were urged to push the vote response several times and some had inadvertently mis-keyed.

The issue could lie with the voting hardware or software.

The simple point is the from the Councillor's perspective it is a blind vote, in that they have no way of being able to confirm the way they will be/are recorded as voting, until the draft Council Minutes are produced some four weeks later.

Whatever the reason, the issue needs to be addressed before major changes to the Events of the Olympic Regatta are made on the basis of a technical voting issue/error.

In the current circumstance, their provisional vote must be confirmed by the individual councillors before the vote on Parts 1 and 2 of Submission 037-18 can be declared to be Final, along with other votes taken dutring the Annual Conference using the Voting Pads.

[The video above is cut from the live broadcast of Day 1 of the Annual Conference, showing the two tests for the Voting Pads, and then the live vote itself. To view it more accurately, click on the wagonwheel for Settings and then set the speed down to .25 speed.]

The video below is the full voting and debate on Submission 037-18 proposing that the 2024 Olympic be re-opened - which requires a 75% majority, and if that is obtained then a second vote is to be taken to change the Mixed One Person Dinghy event with a Mixed Two Person Offshore Keelboat event.

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