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Election season at ICANN

Kevin Murphy, October 4, 2017, Domain Policy

Two significant votes are coming up soon in the ICANN community, with the GNSO Council looking for a new chair and the ccNSO ready to select a new appointee for the ICANN board of directors.

The ccNSO election will see an actual contest for what is believed to be the first time, with at least two candidates fighting it out.

The GNSO vote is rather less exciting, with only one candidate running unopposed.

It seems Heather Forrest, an intellectual property lawyer, occasional new gTLD consultant, and professor at the University of Tasmania, will replace GoDaddy VP of policy James Bladel as Council chair a month from now.

Forrest, currently a vice-chair, was nominated by the Non-Contracted Parties House.

The Contracted Parties House (registries and registrars), evidently fine with Forrest taking over, decided not to field a candidate, so the November 1 vote will be a formality.

In the ccNSO world, the country-codes are electing somebody to take over from Mike Silber on the ICANN board, a rather more powerful position, when his term ends a year from now.

Nominations don’t close until a week from now, but so far there are two candidates: Nigel Roberts and Pierre Ouedraogo.

Roberts, nominated for the job by Puerto Rico, runs a collection of ccTLDs for the British Channel Islands.

Ouedraogo is from Burkina Faso but does not work for its ccTLD. He is a director of the Francophone Institute for Information and New Technologies. He was nominated by Kenya.

Both men are long-time participants in ICANN and the ccNSO.

Roberts, who currently sits on the ccNSO Council, tells me he believes it’s the first time there’s been a contested election for a ccNSO-appointed ICANN board seat since the current system of elections started in 2003.

Silber has been in the job for eight years and is term-limited so cannot stand again. The other ccNSO appointee, Chris Disspain, will occupy the other seat for another two years.

Greimann wins Nominet board seat

Kevin Murphy, April 27, 2016, Domain Registries

Key-Systems general counsel Volker Greimann has been elected to Nominet’s board as a non-executive director, beating two rival candidates.

Nominated by Blacknight and EuroDNS, he got 1,169,785 of the 2,144,612 votes cast, beating Dot Advice CEO Phil Buckingham and Namesco domain development manager Kelly Salter.

Nominet uses a somewhat complex single transferable vote system in its elections, in which members votes are weighted according to how many .uk domains they have under management.

Voting power is capped at 3% of the total pool for each member, so no one registrar or small group of registrars can capture the election.

Salter, who had been nominated by top-ten registrars Go Daddy and LCN.com, was defeated in the first round of voting, with Greimann picking up the majority of the votes as a second preference, enabling him to win.

Buckingham was essentially the “domainer candidate”, backed by Netistrar and Namedropper, who’d promised to address the controversial issue of Nominet’s 50% price increase.

The price increases are arguably less important to registrars which can pass the increase on to their customers, than they are to domainers, which have to swallow the added costs themselves.

Buckingham secured about 34% of the votes in the second round.

Only 15% of the members eligible to vote did so, though that’s up from 12% last year.

The full results can be found here.

Nominet will hold its Annual General Meeting in London tomorrow.

Bladel romps home in ICANN election re-run

Kevin Murphy, November 24, 2015, Domain Policy

Go Daddy VP of policy James Bladel has been elected chair of ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization Council.

The result came a month after the GNSO Council embarrassingly failed to elect a chair to replace outgoing Jonathan Robinson.

This time Bladel ran unopposed, securing the unanimous support of both his own Contracted Parties House and the Non-Contracted Parties House, which did not field a candidate.

In the October vote, the NCPH had nominated academic Heather Forrest.

Due to personal friction between commercial and non-commercial NCPH Council members, Bladel lost that election to “none of the above” by a single vote.

Forrest has been elected vice-chair, along with Neustar’s Donna Austin.

Volker Greimann and David Cake, who had been running the Council on an interim basis for the last month, have stepped aside.

Why did the GNSO fail to pick a new leader?

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2015, Domain Policy

Political infighting between sections of the Generic Names Supporting Organization seems to be responsible for the GNSO Council’s failure to elect a new chair yesterday.

Rumor has it that Contracted Parties House pick James Bladel, a VP at Go Daddy, only lost because of ructions in the Non-Contracted Parties House.

I stress these are just rumors — nobody with any first-hand knowledge of the situation was prepared to go on-record with me today — but they come from multiple sources.

As I reported earlier today, Bladel failed to secure the support of over 60% of the NCPH — the threshold to be elected chair — despite having the unanimous support of the CPH.

Roughly 47% of the NCPH chose to vote for “none of the above” instead, resulting in the GNSO Council now lacking a chair.

But I gather that this was not a diss against Bladel, his employer, or the CPH per se.

Rather, the story I’m hearing is that some councilors gave an empty chair their votes as a result of disagreements between the commercial and non-commercial sides of the NCPH.

Some say a deal had been made under which NCPH candidate Heather Forrest would receive at least 60% of the vote in round one, but some voters reneged on the deal, meaning she was knocked out of the running.

I don’t know if that’s true or not, but what it implies is that some votes that would have otherwise gone to Bladel in round two of voting were withheld, essentially out of spite.

Bladel only needed one additional NCPH vote to hit his 60%.

If this sounds like childish bickering, you may be right, but it wouldn’t be the first time a GNSO constituency has disrupted the council in order to make a point.

The last time that happened to a significant degree was over three years ago, when non-commercial users exploited a timing issue to protest new rights protection mechanisms for the Olympics, risking the new gTLD program timeline.

That led some at the time to predict the “death” of the GNSO.

That’s not happening this time. If anything, the wagons are circling.

Hastily reappointed council vice chair Volker Greimann, who became de facto chair at least for today, described the current situation as “business as usual” today, pointing out that ICANN bylaws envisaged and accounted for this kind of power vacuum.

The next vote on the chair’s position will take place at least a month from now.

Go Daddy veep loses ICANN election to “none of the above”

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2015, Domain Policy

ICANN’s multistakeholder GNSO Council has been left embarrassingly rudderless after its members failed to elect a new chair.

The unprecedented result saw Go Daddy VP of policy James Bladel lose an election to “none of the above” yesterday.

Under GNSO rules, there are two candidates for chair. One is nominated by the Contracted Parties House (registries and registrars), the other by the Non-Contracted Parties House (intellectual property interests, ISPs, non-commercial users etc).

Bladel was the CPH candidate. He stood against Australian academic Heather Forrest, on the council representing the Intellectual Property Constituency.

To get elected, a candidate must get 60% of the vote from both houses.

In the first round of voting, conducted via secret ballot, Bladel won 100% of the CPH vote and 47% of the NCPH vote.

Forrest was then eliminated for the second round, which meant Bladel proceeded to a second round of voting: him against “none of the above”.

Council members took 15 minutes out to discuss among themselves what to do.

When they returned, Bladel’s CPH support remained unchanged, but he had only managed to get 53.85% of the NCPH vote.

If my calculations are correct, Bladel essentially missed the 60% threshold by a single vote.

That means the GNSO Council no longer has a chair.

The interregnum will last at least a month.

Each house now has until November 5 to make new nominations. The election will then be re-run “no sooner than 30 days” from yesterday.

In the meantime, the two vice chairs are running the show. The CPH said its current vice chair Volker Greiman will remain in the role while a new chair is being elected. The NCPH has not yet appointed a vice chair.

This morning, the CPH issued a statement that read in part:

Like many in the GNSO Community, the Contracted Party House is disappointed in the unprecedented outcome of the Council election. It is particularly unfortunate that this scenario occurred at a time when ICANN is in the global spotlight.

Throughout the election process, the common theme has been an agreement amongst all Councilors that either candidate would have made a competent and effective GNSO Chair. However, the qualifications of both candidates were ultimately disregarded.

In recent history, GNSO chairs have been drawn from the registries and registrars.

Since 2009, the chairs have been Jonathan Robinson (Afilias), Stephane Van Gelder (then Group NBT, a registrar), Chuck Gomes (Verisign).

This trend did not escape the notice of GNSO members, who quizzed Bladel and Forrest on Sunday on whether they would be able to give fair treatment to both houses on the Council.

Both candidates gave gracious responses. Bladel said:”The chair does not get extra votes when it comes to decisions. The chair does not have his votes taken away; his or her votes taken away. So really this is a question of optics.”

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