23 May 2016

Thoughts on RIPE Chair Election

This note has been posted on RIPE Labs:
Draft RIPE Chair Election Procedure

When Rob Blokzijl stepped down, he handed over the role as Chair of RIPE to me in the closing plenary of RIPE 68 in Prague, 16 May 2014. Rob had been the RIPE Chair for 25 years since 1989 and there has not been any procedure for selecting the Chair. Rob tasked me to put in place a procedure to elect my successor.

It has also come up during the RIPE NCC Consultation Report
"In terms of transparency, respondents asked why there was no election to choose the new RIPE Chair. Respondents noted that they were very supportive of the new RIPE Chair but that they would have liked to have been involved in the process by which he was selected."
Looking back, the RIPE community have a couple election procedures already. The first one put in place was the procedure to elect the RIPE NCC Executive Board when RIPE NCC separated from TERENA and to become a separate legal entity.  See the RIPE NCC Articles of Association, Article 9.1 Executive  Board: Appointment, Suspension and Dismissal.

We are always careful to state that the RIPE community is bigger than the RIPE NCC membership - but the principles of the process has been established by the community - so we are not completely strangers to elections and voting.  

Since then, we have also introduced voting to select the NRO NC members (serving as ICANN ASO Address Council). First time in 1999 when I was elected to the first Address Council - done by paper ballot for those present in the room at the RIPE Meeting at the time of the election.
With the introduction of the Programme Committee, elections are done electronically, which draws more votes than the paper ballot in a room at the meeting. The introduction of electronic voting at the RIPE NCC General Assembly has also increased the number of votes significantly. 

The essence of the RIPE NCC Executive Board election procedure is that there is an open call for nominations for no less than six weeks and closes three weeks before the election, and you need written support by five others in order to be nominated.  

The remaining piece in the puzzle is to define “the RIPE community” in order to determine who can vote. As we are somewhat related to the IETF, we can go to their procedures and look at RFC 3777 which sets their  criteria for being elected to their NOMCOM to participating in three out of the five last IETF meetings. 

It is however possible to participate in the RIPE community without being present at meetings. We may want to consider adding a criteria to include those participating on mailing lists.  

In order to make the process well known in the community, I will suggest that we use the same process for both selecting the RIPE Chair and the NRO NC members. This has the advantage of reducing the number of different procedures to understand but it also gives us an opportunity to beta test the mechanics of the procedure before it is used for the RIPE Chair election.  

So, putting the pieces together, we get the following high level procedure:
  • Open call for nominations
  • Require support from five members of the community
  • Presentation of candidates at RIPE Meeting
  • Electronic vote open to the RIPE community
  • Oversight by a committee of trusted individuals
I have discussed this with the RIPE NCC staff involved in the other elections and they have been kind to write a more detailed proposal.

For the timeline, I propose the following:
  • Present the draft procedure at RIPE 72 in Copenhagen on 26 May 2016

  • Publish the proposal to the RIPE community on the ripe-list@ripe.net
  • Gather input and call for consensus
  • Use the process for selecting the NRO NC member at RIPE 73 in Madrid, October 2016
  • Use the process for electing RIPE Chair at RIPE 74 in May 2017

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