The 2022 voting for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter has concluded. I think it’s time to address an outstanding issue with the balloting for the Hall concerning the non-wrestler candidates. I think this is a sufficient issue that it can be compared to the infamous 2000 Florida butterfly ballots.
If you were blessed enough not to be cognizant of the 2000 United States Presidential election, let me give you a short breakdown: determining who won between Al Gore and George W. Bush came down to who won the state of Florida, which was itself decided by a relatively slim margin – a margin of 537 votes awarded Bush it. A key part of the controversy over the election in that state centered on Palm Beach County. That county used a butterfly ballot design (a recreation of the ballot is depicted in the header image for this article. This was sufficiently confusing that 19,000 people in that county voted for multiple candidates in the presidential race, compared with 3000 in the 1996 election. It’s believed that due to the ballot format, approximately 3,000 people accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan when they intended to vote for Al Gore, two candidates with extremely different platforms.
History lesson over.
The non-wrestler is an oddity on the Hall of Fame ballot. It’s sequestered off from the in-ring candidates, so visually, it appears that the non-wrestlers are in one combined pool despite coming from different parts of the globe and at different points in time. But the key thing is that there is no indication that the candidates in the non-wrestling section are assigned to one of the main voting groups.
You can see the layout in this screenshot of the ballot I received this year. The way it’s presented, it’s easy to think that the non-wrestler category is its own standalone category.
The effect of this would be that voting for someone like Bobby Davis would count against the denominator of the Historical US/Canada section. If I voted for Bobby Davis and didn’t vote for any in-ring candidates in that section, I would be voting against all wrestlers without meaning to.
When I received my first ballot, it was not clear to me that this was the situation with the non-wrestlers. If I had not been told about this by other voters, I would have likely voted for Bobby Davis in 2021 and unintentionally worked against the induction of every single in-ring candidate when I intended to abstain from that category. Most voters don’t write for VoW, which has an devotes a lot of internal discussion to the WON Hall of Fame ballot every year.
This would be a relatively easy fix – all Dave Meltzer has to do is include the category the non-wrestlers are part of next to their names, and a note next to the non-wrestler section header explaining that each non-wrestler is assigned a geographical category and that voting for a non-wrestler candidate means you are voting in their category.
This simple change would help prevent wrestling’s own butterfly ballot moment.