Archive for august, 2012

august 10, 2012

Vote Accounting. Method and Importance of Quorum/Threshold

We think that any community that adheres to a voting system for decision taking has to abide to the following principles:

  1. Maintain awareness on the technical limitations of the chosen voting system.
  2. Use the same voting system for all decisions. (By instantiating every time the best current version of the voting system)
  3. The voting system has to remain open to improvement and upgrade. (Improvement in the sense of refinement and not in the sense of gross revision of the vote accounting practices. Therefore we would expect that each improvement to lead to a lesser change in the way the votes are accounted and with lower tolerance for meeting the agreed-upon principles than the previous improvements)
  4. All the constants of the voting instance (voting schedule, nomination and minimal information on every stakeholder, quorum, total number of community members with voting power) have to be published in advance and each voting member has to sign that he/she knows them before voting.
  5. Compose and enact laws that institute the voting system and ability to improve/upgrade the system without impeding decisions that required previous instantiating.
  6. Transparency and verifiability  of vote accounting. (We already recommended non-anonymous voting)

We also have to be aware that not voting has also to remain a right of the community member for any good voting system. Otherwise we would not remain true to the first principle. A voting system has to account the number of non-voting members with voting rights for feed-back (for principle 3) and quorum purposes.

Voting inside any system means in fact two votes: first vote (the invisible vote) is the vote of confidence and usefulness and desirability of the current voting system instance (with the acceptance of data correctness – principle 4). Second vote is the visible vote in favor of some or none of the stakeholders (the voter may just invalidate his vote by not respecting some procedures). Not voting in a voting instance is in fact just one vote: the member forfeits his right to the second vote on grounds of:

  • lack of usefulness of the decision that constitutes the outcome of the voting instance or in the subsequent implementation of that decision
  • lack of trust in the voting system or in that specific instance of the voting system (including in vote accounting)
  • vested interest in the current instance not attaining the published quorum

Not voting inside a proposed system has often times a greater importance than voting. Any democratic community has to carefully account for „the invisible vote” in order to lessen the technical limitations of the voting system and continue upgrading it.

Members with voting power in a community should not be discriminating against. They do have the same rights in a voting instance as any of the members that exercised their vote in that same instance. Their apparent lack of vote is in fact a powerful exercise of their rights to not be accounted in a system that did not find importance and legitimacy in their opinion.

The total number of members with voting power and the quorum has to be announced before the start of a voting instance. The number of members with voting power that did not vote has to be accounted by rounding up the number of those that we can account in a verifiable manner with the tolerance for those that may exist but impossible/very hard to verify.

As a conclusion: every instance of decision taken through vote should have a quorum (sometimes 50% +1, sometimes 30% – depending on the importance of the decision) to establish legitimacy and literacy of the votes captured by that instance of the voting system.

These days there is a voting instance in Romania (for a nation-wide referendum) where some authorities propose not taking into account some members with voting rights on the grounds that they live outside the country. Authorities in Romania failed to publish the total number of citizens that have to voting right and the number that has to be met for quorum BEFORE the start of the voting instance (principle 4). They try to change the voting system in  an instance precedent to the upgrade (against principle 3) and with major quorum implications (against principle 5).  For the purposes of this article, we will stop here, but this instance of voting in Romania has not respected any of the above-mentioned principles and there are many other „democratic” states that still do not in most or all of their voting instances or even voting systems.

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