Launched in the wake of the 2007 BoB/T20/Kugutsuman scandal (along with IA), the CSM was initially pitched as council of ombudsmen whose establishment was supposed to restore the userbase faith in CCP's business ethics, and convince players undue interference from staffers in in-game disputes, as well as GM/Dev to player cronyism/collusion were not only a thing of the past, but even in times of yore had seldom been a factual truth.
Before the first CSM went live, however, this part of the pitch had been mercifully dropped, probably because the practicality of a semi-random bunch of players — selected on the basis of forum popularity and alliance player count — auditing a R-POW operator for potential maladministration is a can of worms even CCP isn't clueless enough to not foresee exploding in their face.
CSM was thus re-branded as a plebeian consultative council of sorts, whose defined role is to relay players' concerns, prayers for changes and improvements to the game (yet strictly in-game, as it has been made clear that any discussion by the CSM of price policies, business model, community management or work ethics are off the table).
The unstated expectation on CCP's part is to draw CSM reps into the inner circle of fanbois, and leverage their assumed 'street cred' for community PR as user-friendly agents of the Ministry of Truth, since any word typed with a CCP staff signature on the forum is automatically cursed with an aura of half-competent weaselry and DoubleSpeak.
Of course, the fun begins with CCP, voters, CSM candidates and past representatives all holding different sets of expectations about the CSM purpose and capacities.
Most 0.0 alliance players don't give it a second thought and will vote with the party line (if any), reading the CSM election for what it is, ie an opportunity to buy their faction's champion a seat at the table, and a chance to represent them on a select metagaming battlefield.
Some of the wide-eyed n00bs to the EVE political game will eagerly vote for whoever ressembles them most, or seems knowledgeable, or competent, or cute, and will waste their voice like a tree-hugger gay negro commie at an Alaskian ballot.
…and most of the players simply won't vote, because they don't care or don't trust the CSM to be of any influence, unless decide to play along and cast a voice in favor of a 'safe' public figure, such as Chribba or Morning Maniac (neither of which is on the roster for this election, just examples).
Interestingly, although the most prominent warring factions are somewhat represented by candidates bearing their colors*, very few alliance leaders have taken the plunge by running themselves, or even officially endorsing a candidate.
BoB leadership, for example, is nowhere to be seen, but possibly via a couple of their famed pets.
Whether this should be interpreted as a fear of embarrassment over a possible failure in a popularity contest, a strategic choice of running with candidates who enjoy plausible deniability against accusations of partisan bias, or as simple disenfranchisement or disavowal of the CSM as a whole is left as an exercise for the reader.
As for me, I voted with my army of alts, and I didn't spread the love much across contenders.
My understanding of the model is that the CSM is of some minor relevance at this stage, and can possibly have a marginal positive influence in pointing problems and solutions to the dev team's attention, yet mostly based on the interpersonal quality of the connection any given CSM representative will be able to build with his council mates — and more importantly with select CCP staffers.
The CSM is basically an officially endorsed lobby club on every other topic, with just as much influence as the feudal approach of CCP to the matter allows, and it brings absolutely nothing to the community on the issues of accountability, fair governance, and drunk driving in the conduct of business… not that I'm saying it should, while I feel for the poor souls who delude themselves in that hope, assuming that level of candor is to be found among the voting player base.
* The NC has more than a few runners, and goons have no less than 7 declared candidates in the race, out of a total selection of 43.