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Revising the Board Election Rules

August 25th, 2010 by

Last years election of seats for the openSUSE board showed that our election rules are not complete.  So, before the elections this year start, I propose that we refine the rules and like to start with this post a discussion on how to change them.

I see the following situations not handled:

  • Less candidates than seats for a category (Novell/non-Novell)
  • Equal number of candidates and open seats for a category (Novell/non-Novell)
  • a board member resigning
  • a board member disappearing and not engaging in the board
  • a board member getting hired by Novell or leaves Novell

We also need to clarify when the new board constitutes.

We should have a light weight process that is not overly complex and results in endless votes. We vote for people that volunteer their time for the openSUSE project and don’t get any material benefits for it. So, let’s keep that in mind when discussing alternatives.

Also, currently the board has five elected seats (three non-Novell and two Novell) that get elected, so it could be that we have enough non-Novell candidates but not enough Novell ones etc. To make this text easier, I will not mention this everytime.

I have a first proposal before discussing the situations: The board should be allowed to appoint people to board seats until the next board constitutes.

The alternative would be to have a special election when a seat becomes empty. I fear that this just overly complicates the process.

New rule: Appointment: In case that board seats will get appointed, they get appointed by the board.  Appointed seats are only appointed until the next election.  The board can appoint also non-Novell folks on Novell seats and vice-versa.

I suggest also to not only have self-nominations but that people can nominate others – and the election officials will then ask the nominated person whether they stand up for election.

New rule: Nominations: The election officials will take self-nominations, nominations by others and can nominate people for election.  The election officials will contact the nominated people and ask them whether they stand for election.

Insufficient Nominations:

This is a sorry state since it means that not enough openSUSE members are willing to volunteer for the board. In that case, the board should appoint people to join the board and it can put Novell employees on non-Novell seats and vice-versa. With the next election, the seat distribution would be fixed again.

New rule: Insufficient Nominations: If there are fewer nominees for elected Board seats than required to fill all seats, than the board will appoint these remaining seats.

The question remains what to do with the candidates that volunteer, let’s handle them in the next case:

Equal number of candidates and seats

One option here is to just declare the candidates as new board members.  This would be the simplest process.

In other situations, you have a vote of confidence where people give a yes/no vote for the candidates.

One suggestion is a yes/no/abstain vote for the candidates and a candidate needs more yes than no votes to be elected.  If somebody does not get elected, the seat gets appointed (see insufficient nominations).
Since it could happen that one category has enough nominations but not the other, the voting would be different for both categories and this makes the whole process complicated.  So, I suggest to change the rule to have just more than 50 per cent yes votes.

New rule: Equal number of candidates of seats:
If there is an equal number of candidates and seats, voting occurs as normal but each candidate needs to have more than 50 per cent yes votes. In case that seats do not get elected, the board will appoint them.

Board member resigning

The board should appoint somebody.

New rule: Resigning: If a board member resigns, the board should appoint a new board member.

Removal of board member

This is something that’s not covered yet as well. What happens if a member disappears virtually? Or what if a board member goes wild?

New rule: Removal: In the event of repeated absence without contact, or other serious misconduct or negligence, a Board member may be subject to removal. Before any other process occurs, the Board member in question will be personally contacted by the chairperson to try to resolve the situation. If this contact does not successfully resolve the situation, the Board member in question may be removed by unanimous vote of the other members of the Board. The board should appoint a new board member.

Getting hired by Novell or leaves Novell

The elected seats are currently either Novell employee seats or non-Novell employee seats. Should a board member resign if he gets fired or hired by Novell?  IMO the board should stay functional, the seat was elected.  So, again let’s use a pragmatic approach:

New rule: Change of employment: The board member will continue to stay
in the board until the end of the term and the next election the distribution of seats gets fixed again.


There was some confusion when the new term starts, let’s rectify it.

New rule: Constitution: A new board term should start on the first of January, the elections should be finished 14 days before.  In the case of delays, the new board will start 7 days after the election results are published.


How can we change the rules?  Should the election officials be in charge of them or the board itself?  As member of the election officials for the 2009 board election, I propose this change but I suggest that anybody can propose changes but that the board has the final say on them.

New rule: Amendment: Changes by the election rules can be done by vote of the board where 2/3s approve including the chairperson.

So, once there’s consensus about my changes, I propose that the board approves them as stated in the Changes of elections.


The current openSUSE Board election rules are available in the wiki.

Did I miss any case in the elections? What would you differently than I proposed?

Btw. I read the Fedora guidelines on Board elections and also read also what Jono Bacon wrote in “The Art of community management” on governance.

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2 Responses to “Revising the Board Election Rules”

  1. Robetr Schweikert

    Generally I agree. I am just not certain that the board should have control over the rules by which it is elected. Input, yes of course, but not control of.

  2. Generally I agree. I am just not certain that the board should have control over the rules by which it is elected. Input, yes of course, but not control of.