A look back: the 2004 ArbCom elections
The first ever Wikipedia Arbitration Committee elections were held in 2004, with a special election in early August, followed by a regular election in December.
The first election was conducted during the first weeks of August; however, because most of the campaigning and organizing was done in July, it is now referred to as the July 2004 election. The election was necessitated after two of the original appointees of Jimbo Wales resigned: UninvitedCompany and Eloquence. Because it was the first election, there were many decisions made that would set precedents. For example, approval voting was chosen the method of voting. Also, a general pool voting was also decided upon; in other words, all candidates would be running against each other. In addition, there was also a debate regarding the eligibility of Wikipedians to vote. A general consensus was formed on allowing registered users who had been with the project for three or more months to vote. The election was organized by Danny with technical assistance from developer Tim Starling. The vote was held using ArbComVote software, which allowed the voting to be confidential.
Ten candidates ran: Jwrosenzweig, Raul654, David Gerard, Ambi, Sj, Merovingian, 172, Sam Spade, Lir, and Misterrick. Jwrosenzweig and Raul654 finished first and second in the number of votes, respectively, and were thus elected to the ArbCom. Both terms were set to expire in December of that year.
The vote was extremely close between the top three finishers (David Gerard came in third); ten votes or less separated each of them. However, the rest of the field finished relatively far behind, with fourth-place candidate Ambi receiving 59 votes, compared to Gerard's 90 votes. The exact numeric tally of the vote, which lasted from 5 August to 14 August, 2004, was only released by Danny after the election was complete; thus, there were no indicators during the week of voting on which candidate was in the lead.
The December 2004 elections marked the first annual election. Seven seats were up for election: MyRedDice, Gutza, and Camembert, all appointed by Jimbo, decided to not complete their terms, Jwrosenzweig and Raul654, both elected in July, faced re-election, and The Cunctator and Jdforrester, both appointed as well, faced re-election. However, Jwrosenzweig decided not to run for re-election, making four seats up for grabs without incumbents.
The election was organized by Danny, UninvitedCompany, and Elian and again used approval voting with special software. The voting period was increased to two weeks, lasting from 4 December to 18 December, 2004. There was also a candidates' statement page (which was also used in the July elections); however, a disendorsements page sparked controversy. An endorsements page had been created where Wikipedians could list which candidates they supported. This inspired the creation of the disendorsements page where Wikipedians could state their opposition to candidates. However, the two pages were soon merged together. The disendorsements drew widespread criticism and praise. Jimbo Wales expressed his views, saying that "[The disendorsement page] is a magnet and incentive for a different approach [than one of mutual respect and community involvement], one which I most vigorously reject for our community. I encourage people to avoid the use of this page, and instead stick to positive endorsements of people who you think will represent our values thoughtfully and rationally. If the trolls want to have an attack party here, let them. But let's not sink to their level." However, other users disagreed. "This page allows users to voice their concern about the candidates," CheeseDreams (later banned by the Arbitration Committee) said. In a statement, UninvitedCompany, speaking for the organizers, discouraged the use of the disendorsements page but did not prohibit it.
There were 34 candidates and 520 voters. The race again was extremely tight, with Theresa Knott, Raul654, Ambi, Sannse, Neutrality, David Gerard, and Grunt finishing in the top seven. Only one candidate, Theresa Knott, finished with over fifty percent of approval votes. One vote seperated the seventh place candidate (who was successful in the election), Grunt, and the eighth-place candidate, Fennec, and two more votes seperated Fennec from Mirv and Cecropia. The rest of the votes were also extremely close.
Jdforrester and The Cunctator were unsuccessful in their re-election bids. The seven successful candidates then decided on which seat (i.e. the length of the term) they would serve, with the first place candidate (Theresa Knott) choosing first, the second place candidate (Raul654) choosing second, etc. The successful candidates began serving on 1 January, 2005.