Thoughts on the reduced turnout in the 2022 WMF board elections


This year’s board elections ended with lower global voter participation than in 2021.

By comparing available data of the elections in 2021 and 2022, some possible explanations for this are explored.

It seems as if 2022’s smaller group of candidates, with reduced support from super big communities, had a significant impact on the global voter turnout of the board elections. Their absence is possibly responsible for a significant part of the decline.

A significant second factor was last year’s unique additional outreach in the Japanese, Catalan, and Czech communities, which did not repeat this year. 


This year’s election ended with lower global voter participation than in 2021, though it still was the second-highest number of voters ever. 5957 voters cast their vote in 2022, compared with 6873 voters in 2021, a total loss of 916 votes. This is the first significant reduction since 2013. As the global electorate did not change significantly (2022: 67574, 2021: 67838), it brings up the question why that is.

Diagnosing differences

If we take a look at the election statistics of 2022 and 2021, it is striking that we do not see communities that mobilized heavily above the global standard turnout of ~10% (“champion communities”) in 2022. From former voter statistics, we learn that there were always “champion communities” having voter turnouts way above standard turnouts.

In 2021 we saw the following bigger communities having turnouts of 15% and more:

Wiki Eligible Voters Turnout 344 125 36.337% 682 153 22.434% 1251 280 22.382% 464 95 20.474% 558 108 19.355% 441 73 16.553% 2113 324 15.334%

2022 is pretty different from that. There were barely any champion communities, and those there are had lower turnouts: 

Wiki Eligible Voters Turnout 446 91 20.404% 1175 181 15.404%

This is confirmed by checking medians. If we select the Top 30 communities by eligible voters (comprising 84% of the electorate), sort them by their turnouts, and calculate the average of the groups with the highest, medium, and lowest turnouts this is what we can find:

Group 2022 2021 Diff
Highest turnout median 12.60% 19.30% -6.70%
Medium turnout median 8.20% 7.95% 0.25%
Lowest turnout median 5.40% 5.87% -0.47%

It is clear that neither the groups with the lowest nor the medium average turnout shows significant changes but the group with the highest turnout does with a loss of 34.7%.

How significant is this?

As shown above, the effect is real, but does it actually affect the change significantly?

To find out, we took the above TOP 30 communities (again: they make up 84% of the electorate) and sorted them by the change in their number of voters in 2021. 

Twelve of the 30 communities experienced losses bigger than twenty voters. For these 12 communities we can see the following:

Wiki Voters 2022 Turnout 2022 Voters 2021 Turnout 2021 Voter Diff 237 8.40% 349 12.57% -112 215 10.32% 324 15.33% -109 199 6.75% 306 10.39% -107 181 15.40% 280 22.38% -99 64 10.16% 153 22.43% -89 45 13.64% 125 36.34% -80 98 2.71% 175 5.25% -77 56 10.09% 108 19.36% -52 604 10.93% 645 11.32% -41 466 11.91% 502 12.81% -36 80 7.03% 115 10.24% -35 52 7.35% 85 11.79% -33

As mentioned, there was an increase in voter numbers in 6 communities. In three of them only it is significant, these are: 

Wiki Voters 2022 Turnout 2022 Voters 2021 Turnout 2021 Voter Diff 94 11.55% 62 7.62% 32 153 6.44% 109 4.88% 44 1963 8.24% 1845 7.95% 118

Remember: the total decrease from 2021 was 917 votes. The above communities’ losses alone make up 870 voters lost and only 194 votes gained in reverse.


Most intriguing is the question of the reason for these losses. Just to make it clear: while up to this point all insights are based on data, this is going to be, to some extent, educated guessing.

Last year five of the eight champion communities had a candidate running: ES, IT, PT, RU, FR. All these communities are part of the TOP 10 communities by eligible voters (not counting EN). Their voter decrease makes up for 399 voters lost. 

Usually, in the following elections, the new candidates’ communities compensate for losses in former champion communities. 

With only 6 candidates (2021: 19) that effect was significantly smaller though. With two of them originating from EN, and only one of them from the above-mentioned TOP 10 (Polish), the new candidates communities couldn’t make up for these losses. The gains from the Hebrew and the English communities sum up to 150 voters only.

This insight is strengthened by looking at the results from Indian communities that had four candidates running in 2021 and none this year. Turnouts dropped in 2022 in the Indian language communities, respectively. Due to the number of Indian language versions we took a pass on their quantification, spot checks seem to confirm this effect though.

Other reasons for voter losses were more specific to the respective communities: 

  • Outreach: Last year’s hype in the Catalan community, run by a volunteer, did not repeat. (-80 votes)
  • Outreach: The Japanese community had some (very basic) outreach by a community member last year, which was missing this year. (-77 votes)
  • Outreach: In the Czech community, the chapter was not promoting and supporting the elections as last year (-52 votes)
  • Politics: The Ukrainian community lost 89 voters, obviously a consequence of the ongoing war.
  • Electorate: The German community had a smaller electorate (-175), and the almost same turnout (2022: 10.9% 2021: 11.3%) led to -41 voters.

The increase of the Mandarin Wikipedia’s turnout is probably a result of localized outreach by the Movement Strategy and Governance team not present in 2021. This led to an addition of 44 voters. 

There are yet no valid explanations available for the losses in the Farsi (-33) and Polish (-99) communities.

Outreach factors, responsible for the losses of 3 of 12 and the gain in 1 of 3 communities, sum up to 209 losses and 44 gains. Again, the gains do not make up for the losses, leading to 165 voters less than last year. Last year’s outreach in the respective communities was driven by local volunteers and affiliates, who did not repeat their engagement this year. 

Possibly last year’s unusual volunteer and affiliate engagement was driven by the euphoria of finally having an election again after four years and slowed down by its repetition just a year later (not to mention other votes like the MCDC and the UCoC Enforcement Guidelines in between). WMF staff outreach was not available to compensate for these losses.


The Wikimedia movement over the years has gotten used to a continuously growing number of voters in board elections. The above data indicates, that various factors cause participation in elections and are influential to the global turnout. Some powerful factors seemingly are the composition of the candidates’ group and localized outreach to communities.

The decreased impact of candidates hailing from big (and due to their size mostly western) communities, might be perceived as less of a loss, but a correction of former imbalances though. A bigger number of candidates though, resulting in a resurrection of the champion community phenomena, will help to raise local and to some extent global turnouts again.

A strong point to learn from the above numbers is the significance of community outreach. Regardless of it being executed by dedicated volunteers, affiliates, or Wikimedia Foundation staff, it seemingly helps to raise general awareness of elections within communities formerly underrepresented and thus equalizing voter turnouts globally.

(All data from the WMF Board Elections statistics)

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

In addition to some of the flaws seen here, there were also notable problems in how the Elections committee and MSG team handled the campaign period, which seems like another potential cause of depressed turnout.

During the campaign period, the elections committee communicated:

The Elections Committee would prefer for the Signpost to include the candidate statements and links to the candidates’ answers to the questions asked by affiliate organization representatives in June 2022, and not encourage additional questions from the community due to the reasons listed above.

Other statements seem to have made it clear that campaigning by the candidates and answering questions selected by the election committee was discouraged. While controlling the speech of volunteers is outside the remit of the EC or MSG, it seems like most of the candidates abided by this preference.

While there was a process where candidates answered questions from affiliates, that process took place long before the election, and didn’t include the concerns of users that are not part of affiliates. The answers also included responses from candidates that had been eliminated by the earlier process, making the resource harder to use than necessary.

Six community questions were selected by the elections committee - down from 11 in 2021 and 10 in 2017, and much less than the 39 in 2015. Unlike previous years, the answers were posted in video form, making them less accessible to community members that are not capable spoken English. Youtube translations of the community questions became available on 31 August, about a week after voting started.

The initial announcement of the community election failed to link to the community questions, limiting the opportunity of voters to see the responses.

Much effort was put into an Election compass, but it didn’t prove to be a useful tool to show the differences between candidates. Of the fifteen questions, four had only support positions, while another five had only a mix of support and neutral positions, with no oppose positions. (This might be fixable with a filtering step to remove questions without supports and opposes, but in this election, the Compass didn’t appear to be a useful tool.)

The result was an election where it was hard to distinguish the candidates from each other using the most obvious election material, and from which candidates were discourage from campaigning to increase their support (and hence, turnout).

While there can be other causes for a decrease in voters, more information about policy differences tends to increase turnouts, so the decisions made that worked to decrease voter information likely also manifested as decreased turnout.

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