[EM] question re EM list history

Rob Lanphier robla at robla.net
Sat Sep 3 13:28:34 PDT 2005

On Sat, 2005-09-03 at 05:48 -0400, RLSuter at aol.com wrote:
> I'd appreciate a few more details about how this list was started.
> I was at the 1992 founding meeting of the organization that became
> CVD (Center for Voting and Democracy) and I know quite a bit
> about it's history, but I wasn't aware of the CVD-operated list you
> mentioned. I first went online in January 1996. Did this happen
> before then?

Hi Ralph,

EM was started right around the time you were getting online.  At the
time, CVD was piggybacked on the website of The Institute for Global
Communications (IGC).  They operated a now-defunct mailing list called
"elections-reform", referred to as the "ER" list at the time.  I joined
that list in the fall of 1995, having independently "invented" single
transferable vote (STV), realizing that someone else must have already
thought of it, and seeking out someone promoting it.

At the time I joined, there were several active members on the list,
including some names you'd recognize today as current or former EM
regulars.  The official topic of the mailing list was advocacy of STV
and other CVD positions, but there were some members of the list
critical of CVD's position on STV.  They were promoting Condorcet as a
better single winner reform, and getting in long, heated debates with
the pro-STV camp.  For me, Mike Ossipoff's persistence paid off; he
swayed me over to the Condorcet camp.

After a short period, the maintainer of the ER list (Steven Hill)
complained about election method discussions being "off topic" for the
mailing list, and was suggesting corrective action.  Having myself
learned a great deal in a short period of time from those debates, I was
among those that objected to the change.   It seemed to me that having
an open, unmoderated forum for discussion of election methods was an
absolute must.  However, it was clear that the volume of email on ER was
becoming a problem for some people.  Also, I came to understand (if not
fully agree with) Steven's position that we were welcome to have the
debate, just not on CVD's dime.  I thought such a debate was just the
sort of thing CVD should be funding, but since I didn't control CVD's
budget, it was clear that wasn't my call to make.

Fortunately, I was in a rather unique position in early 1996.  My ISP
(eskimo.com) offered two free discussion lists to every dialup shell
account subscriber.  This was in the days well before Yahoo Groups et
al, and was a very progressive policy for an ISP.  So, I offered up one
of my two slots to the original group to form election-methods.  I put
out a notice on ER, collected up the names of everyone who was
interested, and set up the list.

Everything after that point (February, 1996) is available in the
archives here:

ER continued on for a number of years, moving from the IGC website to
Topica (a Yahoo Groups-like offering), ending CVD's official involvement
with the list.  If I recall correctly, Steve Eppley volunteered became
the new list owner at that time, but that's only a very foggy
recollection.  I think the ER list was discontinued (and unfortunately,
the official archive nuked) when Topica went under/was acquired,
somewhere around the 2001/2002 timeframe.


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