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I noticed the actual Election phase started last Friday afternoon, and ends tomorrow (Tuesday). Why is the actual voting phase of the election only 4 days long, and 2 of those days are weekend days?

I would have expected it to last a week, as the voting phase is probably the most important part of the election. If a user visits the election page once throughout the entire election processes, we'd ideally like it to be during the voting phase so they cast their vote.

In contrast, the Nomination phase was 7 days (Mon-Mon) and the Primary phase was 5 days (Mon-Fri). It seems strange that the most important phase would run only 4 days (Fri-Tues), and cover the weekend period which is typically a lower-traffic period for SO.

Maybe it just seems weird to me because Programmers.SE just had an Election as well, and their Election phase lasted 8 days (Mon-Tues). They didn't have enough candidates for a Primary phase though.

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Fri-Sat-Sun-Mon-Tues is 5 days, if you're going to count the Primary as 5 days with that kind of metric. They're identical in length, both occurring as a 96 hour period across 5 solar days. –  Grace Note Mar 11 '13 at 13:44
@GraceNote It started Friday afternoon. The exact timestamp is 3/8/13 20:00:00 which is roughly 3pm EST. I remember noticing it had started right as I was leaving work, and as someone who largely visits SO during work hours, I could easily see missing the election entirely if I didn't check before leaving Friday, and Mon/Tues turned out to be busier than I expected and I didn't have time to read through the nominees and make a decision. I had expected a week to get around to it, which is why 4 days (including 2 weekend days) seems rather short. –  Rachel Mar 11 '13 at 13:49
The Primary Phase starts Monday afternoon at the exact same 20:00:00Z timestamp. I've got a more complete answer coming up, but the main point here is that the Election and Primary are still identical time periods. Crossing the weekend is in the disfavor of the election, but otherwise one can't actually point at the Primary and say it is longer. –  Grace Note Mar 11 '13 at 13:52
@GraceNote Ok, I guess I did my math a bit wrong there too :) I was counting Friday for the Primary and not the Election phase because the majority of daylight/work hours are for Primary –  Rachel Mar 11 '13 at 13:55
Who decided to do this during a daylight savings switch?!? ;) –  Bill the Lizard Mar 11 '13 at 14:06
@BilltheLizard has it right, everyone in the US actually lost an hour so it's not 96 hours its 95 and it's over a weekend. total fail on someones part.... –  ryan Mar 11 '13 at 15:01
It's pretty much always over a weekend, because the nominations usually begin on a Monday. It's not like it really takes a significant time investment to vote... –  Shogging through the snow Mar 11 '13 at 16:10
@Shog9 It takes a decent amount of time to read through the nomination speeches, review the stats of each candidate, and to go through the Town Hall Digest to cast an informed vote. In the case of this SO election, I was waiting to do that until the field of candidates had been narrowed from 27 to 10, which gave me 4 days to get around to it, assuming I paid attention to when the Election phase actually started. –  Rachel Mar 11 '13 at 16:19
You still have a bit over a day to do that in, @Rachel. Fortunately, you only have to pick your top three. –  Shogging through the snow Mar 11 '13 at 16:28

2 Answers 2

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Your final paragraph points out the simple source of it all - primaries. Elections currently take place over a fixed 15 day period. The Nomination Phase occupies the first seven days. Then, the last 8 days are either divided between the Primary and the Election, or just are the Election as a whole. This process is aimed to keep consistency in the process and also to prevent the process from being exceedingly prolonged because of some extra people nominating. This is more of a point for the more common occurrence of 11-13 people nominating, than when there is a major 20-30 candidate parade.

The absolute number of days, I don't think is a major issue. The timing across the weekend, however, I do share concern about, as that essentially halves the amount of time, and at that point the time allotted feels small. I can think of a couple possible changes that could be done to address that issue.

  • We could shift the ratio of Primary:Election from 4:4 to 3:5. This gives solid weekday of time for the start of the election (which is usually when most activity happens), and also avoids extending the duration of the election. The Primary still happens across the midweek, so it gets quite the visibility in its short time space. I'm personally fond of this solution as it has the least complexity in implementation and maintains the same time span.
  • We could extend the Election Phase by 2 days if a Primary Phase happens. This will accommodate for the weekend, simple and straight, although it'll cause ending times to be scattered, especially with concurrent elections, if some sites don't have a Primary Phase. But that's pretty minor and more of a nitpick than any serious issue - 2 days is really just a weekend. This would be like if we delayed the election phase due to the weekend, but I feel that it's better for everyone involved if we just did an extension instead of a delay.
  • We could just make each phase a whole week, with the primary week being wholly removed if there are 10 or fewer candidates. This makes the most consistency, the easiest to understand on paper for voters, and allows for maximum time in the decision making process. That said, it allows for maximum time, which can really drag on if the primary triggers for only 11-13 candidates. I personally feel that a whole week for the primary is overkill, but this solution is the least complex in execution and that makes it considerable.
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Or the primary phase could be eliminated entirely, but that doesn't seem to be a popular idea. –  Mad Scientist Mar 11 '13 at 14:23
@MadScientist I've tossed your request here and there but didn't actually link it in this post, haha. I am not in favor of eliminating the phase, though. –  Grace Note Mar 11 '13 at 14:23
@MadScientist I like the Primary phase to help trim down the list of candidates. There were 27 candidates this time around I really appreciated having that list trimmed down to the 10 most likely candidates when it came time to finally cast my votes –  Rachel Mar 11 '13 at 14:31
@GraceNote Thanks for the answer. I'm also in favor of either #1 or #3, although I share your concern that extending the Primary phase to an entire week would make the election seem way too long. #1 seems like the best option, as it would allow a longer period of time for the actual voting, which includes week days from both before and after the weekend. –  Rachel Mar 11 '13 at 14:34
As a 4th option, what about removing all the advertising until the Primary/Election phase starts? The nomination phase is really only of interest to those who are going to nominate themselves, so why not post the info about the election on meta with a link to the nomination page, promote it in the Community Bulletin only, and only start steering the rest of the community to the /election page with banners, blogs, and/or inbox notifications when it's time for them to actually vote? That would allow a week of time for both the Primary and Election –  Rachel Mar 11 '13 at 14:37
@Rachel On a lot of sites, it's actually pretty important to steer people towards actually nominating. Cooking almost didn't have an election at all recently. To this end, decreasing the visibility of the nomination phase I think is a terrible idea. –  Grace Note Mar 11 '13 at 14:40
@GraceNote Ahh I'm thinking in terms of SO only again, and forgetting the smaller sites. You're right, decreasing the visibility of the nomination phase for smaller sites is a bad idea :) –  Rachel Mar 11 '13 at 14:41
#3 sounds exhausting. Y'know, if we started these things mid-week, we wouldn't end up with most of the election landing on fri-sat-sun (for US-based people at least). Wouldn't change the actual time devoted to it, but would put more of the general participation during prime-time. –  Shogging through the snow Mar 11 '13 at 16:15

Another idea from @GraceNote: The primary phase could be reduced, but with the option to vote for a person during the nomination phase. After all, the primary phase is all about voting for a particular person. Thus, have the primary phase be just 2 days, but allow for voting in the last several days of the nomination phase.

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Then it's not a nomination phase any more, is it? –  Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 13 '13 at 9:58
Well, someone could still nominate themselves, but... –  PearsonArtPhoto Mar 13 '13 at 22:31
But they could do it after somebody has already cast their vote and gone away. It's ridiculous. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 14 '13 at 10:02

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