FEATURES & COMMENTARY
New York, N.Y. — Susan Stellin reports that the first public election to select five members to the international board that administers the Internet domain-name system demonstrated distinct similarities to the issues that plague many national political elections: disputes over the campaign process and low voter turnout.
Add to the mix the technical challenges of conducting an election online, plus the global scope of the voting, and the fact that an organization that has been criticized for a lack of openness conducted a direct election at all is a feat in itself.
The election, which was conducted by Election.com and completed on Tuesday, was held to choose five at- large members to the governing board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which administers the Internet’s addressing system and determines policy on issues like how to resolve disputes over domain names.
Icann has been criticized for a lack of openness, so the direct election of 5 international representatives to the group’s 19-member board, each from a different geographical district, was intended to allow individual Internet users more input into the group.
Candidates were nominated through an Icann nominating committee, as well as through member nominations. The corporation said any Internet user could cast a ballot. Internet users had to be at least 16 years old to vote with a permanent mailing address and e-mail address and had to register with Icann. Voting took place between Oct. 1 and 10.
For the North American region, the winner was Karl Auerbach, (see http://www.cavebear.com/ ) a researcher in the Advanced Internet Architectures group at Cisco Systems Inc. Winners for the other regions were:
* Ivan Moura Campos, the chief executive of Akwan Information Technologies in Brazil, representing the Latin America/Caribbean region.
* Andy Mueller-Maguhn, a self- employed journalist and consultant in Germany, representing Europe.
* Masanobu Katoh, an employee of Fujitsu Ltd. in Japan, representing the Asia/Pacific region.
* Nii Quaynor, an employee of Network Computer Systems in Ghana, representing Africa.
Among the criticisms raised about the election process were technical problems that made it difficult to register to vote and then cast an electronic ballot, as well as Icann’s refusal, on privacy grounds, to release the names of the registered voters so candidates could campaign effectively.
Of the 158,000 individuals who registered to vote, approximately 34,000 people actually voted, a result election organizers attributed to technical problems and potentially a lack of interest in the actual election.
Zˆe Baird, president of the Markle Foundation, which provided $500,000 to Icann and other organizations that supported and monitored the election, acknowledged that the effort was not without flaws, but was an important first step in opening up Icann to more diverse representation.
“This election had its problems,” Ms. Baird said. “It was by no means perfect. But it is a very important experiment.”
Mr. Auerbach echoed the frustrations that many candidates felt about the election process. “Every conceivable hurdle was put in the way of carrying out an effective campaign,” he said. As for why he wanted to become involved in an organization that he has often criticized, Mr. Auerbach said his agenda was simple: “supporting the right of the general public to have some role in shaping the Internet.”