So You Want to Run for CSM? Here’s What You Need to Know

Submission 2020-04-21

This Submission comes to us from Brisc Rubal, who knows a thing or two about elections, and the CSM.

It’s about that time of year again — the time when hearts swell with endless possibilities, hope springs eternal, and the dreams of many a capsuleer in New Eden turns to one of the rarest of laurels. No, it’s not the Alliance Tournament. No, it’s not springtime. No, it’s not even the start of baseball season.

It’s CSM election time.

We are just a few weeks away from the opening of the nominations process for CSM 15, and many capsuleers who have always harbored a secret desire to throw their hat into the ring are considering doing just that. With only ten slots available, a difficult-to-understand voting system, and a community that can be both difficult to represent, even harder to motivate to vote, and fickle in their loyalties, running for the CSM is one of the hardest things for any EVE player to do successfully.

Invariably, those of us who have been elected are routinely asked by those considering or who have decided to run for advice. To make things a bit easier on my former colleagues and friends who have served, here’s a brief discussion of many of the things an aspiring CSM member needs to know and the questions they need to ask themselves before they pull the trigger on a campaign.

Why am I running?

Invariably, when running for office, the first thing anybody asks you is “why are you running?” You need to have a prepared answer for this — in politics we call this the ‘elevator speech’ — that you can give that’s both succinct and captures why you are in the race. It can be as simple as “I love EVE and I want to help make it better.” It can be more detailed, such as “I’m a faction warfare pilot and I am concerned about the state of lowsec and FW. I’m running to urge CCP to make FW a priority next year.”  If you don’t think about this in advance, the first time somebody asks you this question in an interview or on one of the talk shows (which you should always do, and we’ll get to that later) you’re going to babble on for a few minutes and not make a hell of a lot of sense. This won’t win you voters, and will likely make people think you don’t know what you’re doing. Take the time before you get in the race to write down why you’re running and what you hope to accomplish, and do your best to distill this down into a brief few sentences you’ve got memorized and can repeat on command.

Do I understand what the CSM does and what kind of responsibilities I will have?

Even before you figure out why you’re running, you need to understand what the CSM is, what it does and what it doesn’t do, and the expectations and responsibilities you’re going to have if you get elected. At a minimum, you need to read CCP’s explanation of what the CSM is, which can be found here: https://community.eveonline.com/community/csm/. Take minute to familiarize yourself with the Code of Conduct, be aware that you will be expected to have a passport, to provide your real life information and copies of that passport to CCP, and you will have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which confirms you will not reveal any proprietary information CCP provides you to any third parties without their consent. The NDA is a binding, legal document and breaking the terms of it could open you up to legal liability. If any of those things make you uncomfortable, then it may be that running for CSM is not for you.

You also need to be clear about what the CSM is and what it isn’t. The CSM is not a legislative body. Getting elected does not make you an issue expert about the entire game. You won’t be passing laws, taking votes, or deciding what CCP does for the next year. You aren’t suddenly a game developer or producer, and no one is going to expect you to solve every issue that plagues the game. The CSM is, at its core, a focus group for CCP, which they value for being able to provide them with thoughtful, structured feedback on the state of the game and the community, from the point of view of someone who plays the game. They don’t expect, or often want, you to bring them prepackaged solutions to every problem in the game. What they do want and expect is for you to participate, to be professional, to give constructive feedback and to be honest with them about what you think.

Much of your time on the CSM will be hearing and listening to proposals and plans for things that CCP wants to do in EVE. Far less of it will be you telling them what’s wrong with the game and how to fix it. There is always a place for that, but do not expect it to be the bulk of your duties.

If none of that deters you, then it’s time to think about the nitty gritty of getting elected.

Do I understand how the voting system works?

The Wright single transferable vote system governs CSM elections and has since 2013. This is a system that is designed to maximize individual votes, ensuring that those who vote their entire ballot are likely to see at least one or more of the people they’ve voted for get elected. The goal of the STV is to create a CSM that is more representative of the players who actually do the voting. It also ensures that fewer votes are wasted — which can happen when a candidate receives far more votes than they need to win, or when voters split their votes among a large number of popular candidates, allowing a less-popular, marginal candidate who has a stronger base to win with a plurality of votes (like has happened in some real life primary elections).

Under the STV, voters choose their top 10 candidates to vote for. Once all the ballots are in, an algorithm is run that determines the total number of ballots, and the number of candidates, and the minimum number of votes necessary to win election, which is called “the quota”. The system then proceeds with multiple “rounds” of voting, in which candidate votes are calculated based on ballot order and the candidate with the fewest number of votes is eliminated. The algorithm proceeds to eliminate the lowest vote getter for as many rounds as are needed to elect 10 candidates. This always depends on how many candidates there are. CSM 14 took 54 rounds because there were 64 candidates. CSM 11 took 65 rounds because there were 75 candidates.

The quota changes during each round because not every person who votes fills out their entire ballot. If a candidate is eliminated and there are no viable candidates remaining on a persons ballot (say, for example, they vote for three people, and all three people are eliminated by the 15th round), that ballot is “exhausted” and no longer counts towards the total number of ballots cast, so the number of votes needed to win goes drops. The quota is equal to (number of votes cast / number of positions + 1) + 1.

For example, on the first ballot of CSM 14, the quota to be elected was 3000 — there were 32,994 votes and 10 positions available. By the final round, the quota had dropped to 2908. That meant that to be provisionally elected, you needed to either have more than 2908 total votes (7 of the elected CSM members did) or have more votes than the lowest vote getter in the final round (which was Sort Dragon with 2321 votes). The 3 who had fewer than the quota but more than the last person eliminated, ExookiZ, Innominate and Steve Ronuken, were all elected.

Sounds complicated, right? It is. Despite being a recognized election law expert in the United States, this system was almost opaque to me, until I read this article from my friend Noizygamer: https://nosygamer.blogspot.com/2018/03/csm-13-election-explaining-single.html. Thank God I did, because it helped me figure out what I needed to know to get elected.

The two things you, as a candidate, need to remember about the STV is that you need to go out of your way to do two things: First, you need to get as many people as you can to vote for you as their #1 choice and second, you need to get on as many ballots as you possibly can, regardless of position. If you can do both of those things well, you stand a real chance at getting elected.

What/Who is my support base?

If you expect to be elected, you need to have a support base. A base of support is defined as “the universe of players I can expect will vote me #1 or #2 on all of their ballots.” This is a critical distinction that you must keep in mind — it’s not enough to get on a lot of CSM ballots. That is an important thing, to be sure, but you must have a sufficient number of people who are willing put you #1 and #2 if you want to have a realistic chance at winning.  For most candidates who are not part of a major bloc of support (one of the nullsec coalitions, generally) it’s not even enough to be #2 on a lot of ballots. You will need to have a sufficient number of #1 votes — generally in the 500-1000 range — to be viable enough through the voting system to take advantage of all the down ballot votes you may receive.

A perfect example of the importance of having enough #1 votes — CSM 14 saw The Judge, a multiple term CSM member, lose for the first time since he started running for CSM during CSM 11. Despite being #4 on the Imperium ballot — always one of the biggest blocs during CSM election time — he was eliminated in the 29th round of the balloting because he didn’t have a sufficient number of first round votes to take advantage of other ballots so he could receive whatever leftover votes from Innominate were available to him once Innominate was elected. Because Innominate was not elected until the final round (34), no one on the Imperium ballot below him received a single vote through the STV system.

It is critical, if you want to have a realistic chance at winning, that you can put together a sufficient number of first or second round votes. Whether you can rely on second or third round votes is a function largely of who you can expect to vote for you.

Who do/can I expect to vote for me?

This is one of the most difficult things to think about when it comes to running for CSM. It requires a level of self-awareness that many people find difficult. You have to be bluntly honest with yourself about who you know, how well known you are, who you expect will vote for you, who won’t, and whether the people you consider your base are more likely to vote for somebody else before you. These are never easy questions to ask, but you have to ask them.

Look at your background. What do you do in EVE? Who do you interact with? Are you a CEO or an alliance leader? Are you noted in the community? Do folks on reddit or the EVE O forums know who you are? Are you active in discords? Have you been on any of the talk shows? Are you a streamer or are you friends with anyone who is?

If you’re in a corporation or an alliance, will the folks in there vote for you? Is there anybody else who may be running they like better or know more? This is the most difficult question for many aspiring CSM members, especially those in large nullsec blocs. Just because you’re a member of Goonswarm or Pandemic Horde or Test Alliance Please Ignore or Northern Coalition. Doesn’t mean you’re a shoo-in for CSM. If you haven’t been approached to run or you haven’t talked to your leadership — whoever it is that decides the ballots for those groups now, it may be too late. Many of these big blocs have a slate of candidates they want to run, and convincing them to include you may be difficult. At best, you may be able to get an endorsement or an agreement to add you to one of the lower slots on the ballot, which is helpful, but not likely to be effective in helping you win.

If you don’t have the backing of a big nullbloc, all is not lost, however. Almost invariably, each year there is a candidate that fires the imagination of the community and is able to rally significant support despite not having a major coalition backing their efforts. These community candidates, sometimes referred to derisively as the “meme candidates,” can and do win elections, and no matter how they got there, they served their time. Examples of community candidates that went on to serve well on the CSM include Xenuria, Olmeca Gold and yours truly.

What kind of community contacts do I have?

No one gets elected alone. Unless you are the Mittani, Aryth, Gobbins, Vily, or some other EVE autocrat, you are going to need to leverage everyone you know to help increase the number of people who know who you are (your “name identification” or “name id”), because the more well known you are, the better your chances of getting elected.

The best kinds of community contacts are the influencers who can get your name ID up because they have audiences or groups of people who listen to them. This can include streamers, talk show and podcast hosts and producers, senior level alliance diplomats, alliance colleagues, former CSM and current CSM members, reddit mods — anybody in the community who other players know and who they like and trust.

Take advantage of all of your connections, because you never know who can help you get another connection that you’ll need to land an interview spot on Talking in Stations or Declarations of War, or a shot at landing on somebody’s ballot.

What kind of a campaign am I willing to run?

Again, unless you’re an autocrat and can place yourself at the top of your own ballot, you’re going to have to run again. I will repeat this again because it’s the #1 biggest mistake that people running for CSM make: If you run for CSM, you have to run a campaign.

Every campaign is different. Not all of them have to be extensive and expensive. Simply making yourself available to do interviews, being willing to talk to people, post on reddit and the forums, especially the CSM candidate forum on the EVE O website, and join as many discords as you can will mean you’ve done more campaigning than 75% of CSM candidates. Too often, players seem to think that all they need to do is put their name in nomination, sit back and wait for the adulation of the crowds to sweep them to victory. Those folks don’t win.

Campaigning takes work. When I ran, I put together a professional video introducing myself that was funny and self-deprecating, I had a campaign website that was updated and filled with information about myself and what I was campaigning on, I did every EVE podcast and news show that would have me (often contacting them myself to make myself available), and I bugged all the former CSM members I knew (especially INIT’s own Malcanis). I did as much research as I could, reading as much stuff on reddit and the EVE O forums as well as other writings and websites (Sugar Kyle’s diary of her time on the CSM was invaluable). I even spent some money on Facebook ads. I tracked every vote that came in on a spreadsheet, asking all my supporters to let me know when they’d voted and how many first ballot votes for me they cast. I had multiple friends and corp mates supporting me, putting up reddit posts and mentioning me whenever they could in local during fleet fights, and the like — all to get my name ID up.

In the end, I tracked that I would receive at least 1,000 first round votes. In the end, I received over 2,000 and it was these votes, not my 5th place on the Imperium ballot (I didn’t receive a single vote from the Imperium ballot because The Judge was the last person elected on that CSM, so no votes transferred from him to me under the STV) that got me elected. That was all shoe leather, hard work, and the faith and trust that my friends and alliance mates in the Initiative (the bulk of my support) provided me with the votes I needed to win. And since I only tracked 1,000 of those votes, that meant there were 1,000 other players out there I didn’t know who put me at the top of their ballots. That was because I campaigned hard and it paid off.

Can I actually do the job if I win?

Being on the CSM does take work, even if the old adage that you get out of it what you put into it is also true. As with any job, elected or otherwise, you can decide how hard you want to work and how much you want to put into it. At a minimum, though, you’re going to be expected to be available for a once a week meeting via videoconference, and two one-week, in-person sessions of the CSM in Iceland. While you don’t need to be present in person in Iceland, my experience — and it’s an experience shared by almost every CSM I’ve ever met or talked to — has been that there is no substitute for being in Iceland at CCP Headquarters in person. Your effectiveness is raised exponentially by your ability to be there in person, get to know the CCP team as people, not just names or pictures on a screen, and interact with them face-to-face. You owe it to yourself to do everything you can to get there in person.

Conclusion

If this sounds daunting, it is. But don’t let that discourage you. Running for CSM can be a rich and rewarding experience. If you do it right, you’ll get to meet a ton of new people, you’ll learn a lot about EVE and how it’s played and developed, and you’ll make a lot of new friends. Even if you don’t win, running can be a great thing for many EVE players so don’t let the fact that many people run and few win discourage you from taking a chance. You will never know if you’ve got what it takes to win if you don’t try.

To sum up my advice — if you really want to run for CSM, just do it.

After all, the worst that can happen is you win.

 

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Comments

  • Guilford Australis

    Look, winning a CSM slot is an easy three-step process. Even a total doofus can do it.

    (1). Master some obscure playstyle that literally two people in all of EVE do so that you will appear to be an expert even if you know nothing about how the game works outside of your extraordinarily narrow navel-gazing.

    (2). Drum up the Reddit brigade with ludicrous promises of breaking up the nullsec blocs and burning down the Blue Donut despite having no familiarity with how nullsec works, how sovereignty works, how the blocs came into existence, how your own playstyle ironically contributes to the consolidation of the vaunted Blue Donut, and anything related to any other region of EVE outside nullsec.

    (3). Make a polished 25-minute video showing that you have mastered one single playstyle that you only do in one single region of the game and post it on Reddit for consumption by the mouth-breathing masses to demonstrate your fake credibility.

    Enjoy your seat on the CSM!

    April 22, 2020 at 11:47 PM