I am not taking a position on this issue at this time. However, I want to discuss several issues that would arise were we to move to public staff voting, some of which have been briefly touched upon already by others.
There are currently no formal requirements and/or qualifications for becoming a staff member. Were public nomination and/or voting implemented, it would be a good idea to have qualifications for candidates.
For example, candidates must have played a certain number of hours over the past two (or more) revisions of their “home” server, and/or a certain number of hours across any combination of servers in a certain period of time. This would help ensure that potential staff are active members of the community. Additionally, official mutes, notes, and bans should be taken into account.
Less formal and harder to quantify are possible instances of “bad behavior” that did not merit official action by a staff member, yet were still egregious enough to cause concern about a candidate’s ability to be a responsible staff member. Server and head admins would need to ability to block a candidate for cause. Admins are often privy to private discussions among themselves and with players regarding specific incidents. Candidates might need to agree to waive their server privacy rights to have logs of questionable instances and/or the content of private conversations with/among admins made public.
Additionally, candidates should agree that all of their alts, even their “secret” ones, should be made public. This would be in the interest of full disclosure and transparency, as it would enable voters to make the most fully informed decision about a candidate’s ability to be a responsible staff member.
A procedure would need to be developed for “campaigns” by candidates, as well as public comment by players as to whether a candidate is suitable to be a staff member. For example, it would need to be made clear that the no-spam rule for game chat would include a prohibition on “too many” campaign messages by both candidates and voters (though what is “too many” would need to be determined, and could end up being a complete prohibition of campaign endorsements in chat).
Regarding voters, some sort of minimum eligibility would need to be implemented, along with a registration system. This would ensure that only currently active members of the community are voting, and prevent (along with minimum qualifications for candidates) frivolous candidates being elected due to ballot stuffing by people who are not active community members and/or members who create alt accounts to vote more than once. Registration should be required for each election, to ensure that long-inactive members are not registered to vote in perpetuity. Criteria for both candidates and voters could, for example, be the same, or voter qualifications could be less strenuous (i.e. fewer required hours of game time) than for candidates.
Regarding how candidates are selected, would it be useful to require candidates to have sponsorship from one (or several) current staff member(s)?
Another issue is term limits and/or re-election. Currently, staff are only removed for serious infractions, and/or at their request. Would a public voting scheme also bring with it term limits? Would current staff need to run for re-election against new candidates, or only against other current staff members? Term limits also begs the question about term limits and election of server and head admins, but that should be a kept a separate issue from public staff votes, to avoid muddying the waters.
The above is not meant to be an exhaustive list of issues that would arise were we to implement public voting for staff. They are meant to show that moving to public elections would require some serious work to ensure free and fair elections.
TL;DR: minimum qualifications for candidates; admin involvement in candidate selection; voter registration; term limits/re-election of staff.