In light of @sarahjamielewis 's resignation from the ZOMG, the Foundation has worked with the ECC and the remaining members of the ZOMG to find a solution to fill the vacant seat that would be in line with ZIP1014.
We thank Sarah for her contributions to the Zcash Ecosystem and look forward to her work at Open Privacy.
As with any fledgling governance process, there will be bumps in the road. I hope that the community takes this incident as a learning opportunity to address the challenges we face, and to move forward together, united by the common goal of building a truly decentralized, private, and censorship-resistant financial system.
Thank you indeed, @sarahjamielewis, for your important contributions to creating the ZOMG (not to mention your other important work beyond Zcash). I’m very sorry that you left. Know that the security and privacy priorities you have championed will stay on my mind, along with many others’. Your voice will remain heard here implicitly, and I hope that in the future, explicitly as well.
And welcome on board, @ml_sudo! I particularly appreciate your accepting this role after the magnitude of effort it entails has become vividly clear, in the committee’s (excellent) reports.
Lastly, thank you ZF and ECC, @antonie in particular, for this very reasonable solution to filling Sarah’s seat.
Wanted to put this in a separate reply, because again I think we’re extremely lucky to have ml_sudo joining:
Speaking for myself as a ZOMG member, not for everyone on ZOMG, I have some perspectives on the decision to do replacements in this way:
We are extremely lucky to have ml_sudo joining. (Repeating just to make sure it’s clear!!)
I don’t think using results from the previous election is the right approach. (More on this below.)
I think the speed at which this decision happened closed down space for stakeholders like ZOMG members, ZCAP members, and forum participants to participate in the decision, which isn’t great for legitimacy or democratic process.
Sarah, the member who resigned, has said that sexism played a role in her resignation, and I think that both the speed of the decision and the chosen replacement mechanism limit the space we have to discuss this and address it, which isn’t great for the future, since it will come up again.
Whatever replacement mechanism we have has to come from the preferences of the ZCAP, so there are three options:
Do nothing, run with a smaller panel, and replace in the next election.
Use the preferences declared of the last election, i.e. what ZF is deciding here.
Have a special election for the vacant seat.
It’s pretty clear to me that the third option, having a special election for the vacant seat, is a better method than the one chosen here and should be the one we use going forward, for the following reasons:
A special election is harder to game, generally. Using the next person in line means anyone resigning can know exactly who will replace them by making an agreement in advance. You can also get a series of colluding parties, who all resign in order to put someone farther down the list on the panel. Someone with the power to push a member to resign also knows exactly who is going to replace them, so the prize is clear and the incentive could be very strong. (This happened in Brazil a few years back, to their first woman President.) Or the opposite could happen: someone with a very good cause in forcing a member to resign might not, because the next person in line is even worse. These latter scenarios are all pretty paranoid, and I think there’s way too much good will here for all of these things, but then so did Dilma.
A special election is the only fully democratic option in this case. In this case where the replacement mechanism hasn’t been chosen yet, knowing who the “next in line” successor is especially undemocratic, because with the other approaches, whoever is choosing the replacement mechanism knows exactly who they are going to get. It seems based on the post above that Zcash Foundation considers itself the party that chooses the replacement mechanism, in the absence of specific language in the ZIP. That means Zcash Foundation has had an opportunity to choose whether they prefer ML or a vote by ZCAP. ML is apparently awesome, so they chose ML. But if ML was someone they didn’t like, they had a chance in this first case to put it to the ZCAP instead. Unless something in the language bound them to this replacement approach (and I don’t think anything did or it would have been cited above) that’s a small short circuiting of the democratic intent of the ZIP.
A special election lets ZCAP members use all available information. Using the ZCAP’s preferences from months earlier means that people are choosing without the latest information. One important kind of information is the makeup of the current panel. For example, the ZCAP might decide that a certain set of skills or perspectives was missing from the panel and vote accordingly. As Zooko has suggested, being able to vote for one or two members at a time introduces a mechanism where voters can vote for diversity (right now there’s no way to do this without giving up your say over which other candidates are chosen.) There are other kinds of important information too. Maybe a new ideal candidate has entered the scene since the last election. Maybe there’s some current crisis that makes a given candidate more suitable. Maybe ZCAP members have since changed their mind about a previously preferred candidate and now actively don’t want that candidate to serve. It could be a lot of things.
A special election creates space to talk about why someone just resigned. Something really messed up just happened, where the only woman on the committee resigned because she came to believe that she couldn’t do the job she was elected to do, and thought sexism was a factor in that. This is itself useful information that might inform the ZCAP (see #3) and also something where the kind of discussion that would happen in an election process could be helpful to figuring out what went wrong and reducing the chance of it happening again. I can see where it’s tempting for anyone with a stake in the Zcash brand or minimizing public controversy to cut off this discussion, but I think that approach is both morally wrong and leads to even larger crises in the future.
All of this is very wordy, and my process-geek side is on full display here.
I hope the tone and sheer quantity of writing here doesn’t convince people I think we’ve forever lost our legitimacy. I’m confident we can still address these various issues (except #2, which will have to be water under the bridge) and maybe there are other approaches than special elections which address this.
And I hope no one gets the impression I think there’s some evil power-play happening, because I don’t.
It just seems suboptimal and a little dicey.
But as long as this doesn’t set a precedent and we can clarify a more consistent-with-democracy process like special elections at some point in the future, we should be fine.
I want to separate concerns.
I’m willing to assume that your fundamental contention (as I understand it):
Special elections are the best process to replace abruptly/unpredictably absent members.
How do we build the system now such that when it becomes necessary (again), it’s already in place? Unless there’s a strong sentiment in the community that we pursue an alternate approach, then I vote we get right to work outlining a ZOMG-replacement snap-election protocol.
In other words, let’s start working on that right away!
Per the contentious issue of an insensitive, or hostile community, I believe that merits it’s own… topic?
I was surprised to see ZF concluding this issue by electing a new member to ZOMG. ZF could’ve done emergency election, BUT with the same set of candidates, not sure if the outcome would be any different (but it could be!).
I support the “action” from ZF but they could’ve worked with community on this. I don’t want us to keep spending time on governance or election. What this reminds me is — full test coverage. We should’ve thought of the scenario where MGRC member resigns/disappears/… etc.
Also why ECC is consulted? What role do they play here? They could’ve just contacted ECC representative who participated in the election.
One reason this had to happen, I think, is that an ECC employee (DC) was next in line, which shows some of the drawbacks I’m pointing out above where “next in line” makes it possible to sort of wrangle a chosen outcome from a set of preset outcomes.
But also I think it’s natural and responsible for folks in charge at the two organizations to check in with each other in a potentially contentious situation like this, since they don’t want to start another disagreement…and also simply to demonstrate that they value the other organization’s perspective. It seems healthy and normal to me.
I think if there’s agreement on it, we should discuss some of the practical questions about how it work work, such as:
How much time does there need to be to get the attention of voters, gather a candidate pool, and inform voters of candidate positions (I think the video Q&A was really helpful for people last time, e.g.)?
Who decides when the election is? Perhaps there are quarterly preset dates, with a minimum amount of lead time such that there’s always at least 20 or 30 days between resignation and election.
How long does someone elected in a special election serve for? Do they serve a full term and come up for reelection in that same moment the following year? Do they serve a short term and then run for re-election in the next annual election with the rest of the group?
How do we make this not a giant burden on the Zcash Foundation, which put a ton of work last time around into making the election go well, and I’m sure expects the next election to be a ton of work as well?
Do we want to move to staggered elections throughout the year generally, so that voters can see the makeup of the existing panel before choosing a new person, or are we set on the current scheme of a fresh annual election?
There might be other questions I’m missing here too.
I think that the process as it occurred in this instance should be considered/included in the governance framework going forward, for the sake of agility, and only if we lose an elected member within a ~6 month window from the most recent election. The churn of going through another election cycle creates delays in productivity in this environment which is already fast-paced and task saturated as it is.