Constitution - formal proposal (v0.5)
Further to the discussions we've been having on my constitutional
drafts, I think it is time to put the formal procedure into practice
on itself. Since we're bootstrapping we'll use the current draft as
working rules. I'll appoint a Secretary shortly.
(The change in this version from 0.4 is that people's votes on general
resolutions (but not in leadership elections) are published at the end
of the vote.)
So, as per s.4.1(2), s.4.2, s.5.1(5), I hereby propose the followng
draft General Resolution:
That the Project adopt the constitution below in place of its
previous arrangements. The Project Leader will initially appoint
the Secretary and the Technical Committee.
[This file is also available in HTML at
Proposed constitution for the Debian Project (v0.5)
The Debian Project is an association of individuals who have made
common cause to create a free operating system. This document
describes what decisions are made how in the Debian Project.
This document describes the organisational structure for formal
decisionmaking in the Project. It does not describe the goals of the
Project or how it achieves them, or contain any specific nontechnical
policies not directly related to the decisionmaking process.
2. Decisionmaking bodies and individuals
Each decision in the Project is made by one or more of the following:
1. The individual developer working on a particular task;
2. The developers, by way of General Resolution or an election;
3. The Project Leader;
4. The Technical Committee and/or its Chairman;
5. The Project Secretary;
6. Delegates appointed by the Project Leader for specific tasks.
Most of the remainder of this document will outline the powers of
these bodies, their composition and appointment, and the procedure for
their decisionmaking. The powers of a person or body may be subject to
review and/or limitation by others; in this case the reviewing body or
person's entry will state this.
2.1. General rules
1. Nothing in this constitution imposes an obligation on anyone to do
work for the Project. A person who does not want to do perform a
task which has been delegated or assigned to them does not need to
do it. However, they must not actively work against these rules
and decisions properly made under them.
2. A person may hold several posts, except that the Project Leader,
Project Secretary and the Chairman of the Technical Committee must
be distinct, and that the Leader cannot appoint themselves as
their own Delegate.
3. Individual developers
An individual developer may
1. make any technical or nontechnical decision with regard to their
2. propose or second draft General Resolutions;
3. propose themselves as a Project Leader candidate in elections;
4. vote on General Resolutions and in Leadership elections.
3.2. Composition and appointment
Developers are volunteers who agree to further the aims of the Project
insofar as they participate in it, and who maintain package(s) for the
Project or do other work which the Project Leader's Delegate(s)
The Project Leader's Delegate(s) may choose not to admit new
developers, or expel existing evelopers. If the developers feel that
the Delegates are abusing their authority they can of course override
the decision by way of General Resolution - see s.4.1(3), s.4.2.
Developers may make these decisions as they see fit.
4. The developers by way of General Resolution or election
Together, the developers may:
1. Appoint or recall the Project Leader.
2. Amend this constitution, provided they agree with a 2:1 majority.
3. Override any decision by the Project Leader or a Delegate.
4. Issue nontechnical policy documents and statements.
These include documents describing the goals of the project, its
relationship with other free software entities, and nontechnical
policies such as the free software licence terms that Debian
software must meet.
They may also include position statements about issues of the day.
5. Together with the Project Leader and SPI, make decisions about
Debian's property. (See s.9.1.)
1. The developers follow the Standard Resolution Procedure, below. A
resolution or amendment is introduced if proposed by any developer
and seconded by at least K other developers, or if proposed by the
Project Leader or the Technical Committee.
2. Delaying a decision by the Project Leader or their Delegate:
1. If the Project Leader or their Delegate has made a decision,
then Developers can override them by passing a resolution to
do so; see s4.1(3).
2. If such a resolution is seconded by at least 2K Developers,
or if it is proposed by the Technical Committee, the
resolution puts the decision immediately on hold (provided
that resolution itself says so).
3. If the Project Leader's decision was to change a discussion
period or a voting period, then only K Developers need to
second the resolution to be able to put the decision
immediately on hold.
4. If the decision is put on hold, an immediate vote is held to
determine whether the decision will stand until the full vote
on the decision is made or whether the implementation of the
original decision will be be delayed until then. There is no
quorum for this immediate procedural vote.
5. If the Project Leader (or the Delegate) withdraws the
original decision, the vote becomes moot, and is no longer
3. Votes are taken by the Project Secretary. Votes and tallies
results are not be revealed during the voting period; after the
vote the Project Secretary lists all the votes cast. The voting
period is 2 weeks, but may be varied by up to 1 week by the
Project Leader, and may be ended by the Project Secretary when the
outcome of a vote is no longer in doubt.
4. The minimum discussion period is 2 weeks, but may be varied by up
to 1 week by the Project Leader. The Project Leader has only a
casting vote. There is a quorum of 3Q.
5. Proposals, seconds, amendments, calls for votes and other formal
actions are made by announcement on a public-readable electronic
mailing list designated by the Project Leader's Delegate(s); any
developer may post there. Votes are cast by email in a manner
suitable to the Secretary.
6. Q is half of the square root of the number of current developers.
K is Q or 5, whichever is the smaller.
5. Project Leader
The Project Leader may:
1. Appoint Delegates or delegate decisions to the Technical
The Leader may define an area of ongoing responsibility or a
specific decision and hand it over to another developer or to the
Once a particular decision has been delegated and made the Project
Leader may not withdraw that delegation; however, they may
withdraw an ongoing delegation of particular area of
2. Lend authority to other developers.
The Project Leader may make statements of support for points of
view or for other members of the project, when asked or otherwise;
these statements have force if and only if the Leader would be
empowered to make the decision in question.
3. Make any decision which requires urgent action.
This does not apply to decisions which have only become gradually
urgent through lack of relevant action, unless there is a fixed
4. Make any decision for whom noone else has responsibility.
5. Propose draft General Resolutions and amendments.
6. Together with the Technical Committee, appoint new members to the
Committee. (See s.6.2.)
7. Use a casting vote when Developers vote.
The Project Leader does not have a normal vote in such ballots.
8. Vary the discussion period for developers' votes (as above).
9. Lead discussions amongst developers.
The Project Leader should attempt to participate in discussions
amongst the developers in a helpful way which seeks to bring the
discussion to bear on the key issues at hand. The Project Leader
should not use the Leadership position to promote their own
10. Together with SPI, make decisions affecting Debian's property.
1. The Project Leader is elected by the developers.
2. The election begins nine weeks before the leadership post becomes
vacant, or (if it is too late already) immediately.
3. For the following three weeks any developer may nominate
themselves as a candidate Project Leader.
4. For three weeks after that no more candidates may be nominated;
candidates should use this time for campaigning (to make their
identities and positions known). If there are no candidates at the
end of the nomination period then the nomination period is
extended for three further weeks, repeatedly if necessary.
5. The next three weeks are the polling period during which
developers may cast their votes. Votes are in leadership elections
are kept secret, even after the election is finished.
6. The options on the ballot will be those candidates who have
nominated themselves and have not yet withdrawn, plus None Of The
Above. If None Of The Above wins the election then the election
procedure is repeated, many times if necessary.
7. The decison will be made using Concorde Vote Counting. The quorum
is the same as for a General Resulution (s.4.2) and the default
option is None Of The Above.
8. The Project Leader serves for one year from their election.
The Project Leader should attempt to make decisions which are
consistent with the consensus of the opinions of the developers.
Where practical the Project Leader should informally solicit the views
of the developers.
The Project Leader should avoid overemphasizing their own point of
view when making decisions in their capacity as Leader.
6. Technical committee
The Technical Committee may:
1. Decide on any matter of technical policy.
This includes the contents of the technical policy manuals,
developers' reference materials, example packages and the
behaviour of non-experimental package building tools. (In each
case the usual maintainer of the relevant software or
documentation makes decisions initially, however; see 6.3(5).)
2. Decide any technical matter where developers' jurisdictions
In cases where developers need to implement compatible technical
policies or stances (for example, if they disagree about the
priorities of conflicting packages, or about ownership of a
command name, or about which package is responsible for a bug that
both maintainers agree is a bug, or about who should be the
maintainer for a package) the technical committee may decide the
3. Make a decision when asked to do so.
Any person or body may delegate a decision of their own to the
Technical Committee, or seek advice from it.
4. Overrule a developer (requires a 3:1 majority).
The Technical Committee may ask a developer to take a particular
technical course of action even if the developer does not wish to;
this requires a 3:1 majority. For example, the Committee may
determine that a complaint made by the submitter of a bug is
justified and that the submitter's proposed solution should be
5. Offer advice.
The Technical Committee may make formal or informal announcements
about its views on any matter.
6. Together with the Project Leader, appoint new members to itself.
7. Appoint the Chairman of the Technical Committee.
The Chairman is elected by the Committee from its members. All
members of the committee are automatically nominated; the
committee vote starting one week before the post will become
vacant (or immediately, if it is already too late). The members
may vote by public acclamation for any fellow committee member,
including themselves; there is no None Of The Above option. The
vote finishes when all the members have voted or when the outcome
is no longer in doubt. The result is determined according to
Concorde Vote Counting.
8. The Chairman can stand in for the Leader, together with the
As detailed in s.7.1(2), the Chairman of the Technical Committee
and the Project Secretary may together stand in for the Leader if
there is no Leader.
The Technical Committee consists of up to 8 developers, and should
usually have at least 4 members.
When there are fewer than 8 members the Technical Committee may
recommend new member(s) to the Project Leader, who may choose
(individually) to appoint them or not.
When there are 5 members or fewer the Technical Committee may appoint
new member(s) until the number of members reaches 6.
When there have been 5 members or fewer for at least one week the
Project Leader may appoint new member(s) until the number of members
reaches 6, at intervals of at least one week per appointment.
1. The Technical Committee uses the Standard Resolution Procedure.
A draft resolution or amendment may be proposed by any member of
the Technical Committee. There is no minimum discussion period;
the voting period lasts for up to one week, or until the outcome
is no longer in doubt. The Chairman has only a casting vote.
2. Public discussion and decisionmaking.
Discussion, draft resolutions and amendments, and votes by members
of the committee, are made public on the Technical Committee
public discussion list. There is no separate secretary for the
3. Confidentiality of appointments.
The Technical Committee may hold confidential discussions via
private email or a private mailing list or other means to discuss
appointments to the Committee. However, votes on appointments must
4. No detailed design work.
Then Technical Committee does not engage in design of new
proposals and policies. Such design work should be carried out by
individuals privately or together and discussed in ordinary
technical policy and design forums.
The Technical Committee restricts itself to choosing from or
adopting compromises between solutions and decisions which have
been proposed and reasonably thoroughly discussed elsewhere.
Individual members of the technical commitee may of course
participate on their own behalf in any aspect of design and policy
5. Technical Committee makes decisions only as last resort.
The Technical Committee does not make a technical decision until
efforts to resolve it via consensus have been tried and failed,
unless it has been asked to make a decision by the person or body
who would normally be responsible for it.
7. The Project Secretary
1. Takes votes amongst the Developers when required.
2. Can stand in for the Leader, together with the Chairman of the
If there is no Project Leader then the Chairman of the Technical
Committee and the Project Secretary may by joint agreement make
decisions if they consider it imperative to do so.
3. Adjudicates any disputes about interpretation of the constitution.
4. May delegate part or all of their authority to someone else, or
withdraw such a delegation at any time.
The Project Secretary is appointed by the Project Leader and the
current Project Secretary.
If the Project Leader and the current Project Secretary cannot agree
on a new appointment they must ask the board of SPI to appoint a
If there is no Project Secretary or the current Secretary is
unavailable and has not delegated authority for a decision then the
decision may be made or delegated by the Chairman of the Technical
Committee, as Acting Secretary.
The Project Secretary's term of office is 1 year, at which point they
or another Secretary must be (re)appointed.
The Project Secretary should make decisions which are fair and
reasonable, and preferably consistent with the consensus of the
When acting together to stand in for an absent Project Leader the
Chairman of the Technical Committee and the Project Secretary should
make decisions only when absolutely necessary and only when consistent
with the consensus of the developers.
8. The Project Leader's Delegates
The Project Leader's Delegates:
1. have powers delegated to them by the Project Leader;
2. may make certain decisions which the Leader may not make directly,
including vetting or expelling developers or designating people as
developers who do not maintain packages. This is to avoid
concentration of power, particularly over membership as a
developer, in the hands of the Project Leader.
The Delegates are appointed by the Project Leader and may be replaced
by the Leader at their discretion. The Project Leader may not make the
position as a Delegate conditional on particular decisons by the
Delegate, nor may they override a decision made by a Delegate once
Delegates may make decisions as they see fit, but should attempt to
implement good technical decisions and/or follow consensus opinion.
9. Software in the Public Interest
SPI and Debian are separate organisations who share some goals. Debian
is grateful for the legal support framework offered by SPI. Debian's
developers are currently members of SPI by virtue of their status as
1. SPI has no authority regarding Debian's technical or nontechnical
decisions, except that no decision by Debian with respect to
Debian's property held by SPI shall require SPI to act outside its
legal authority, and that Debian may occasionally use SPI as a
decision body of last recourse.
2. Debian claims no authority over SPI other than that over Debian's
property, as described above, though Debian developers may be
granted authority within SPI by SPI's rules.
3. Debian developers are not agents or employees of SPI, or of each
other or of persons in authority in the Debian Project. A person
acting as a developer does so as an individual, on their own
9.2. Management of Debian's property
1. SPI will hold Debian's money, trademarks and other tangible and
intangible property and manage other affairs requiring legal
personality, tax exempt status or the like.
2. Such property will be accounted for separately and held in trust
3. SPI does not spend money or otherwise dispose of or use Debian's
property without permission from Debian, which may be granted by
the Project Leader or by General Resolution of the Developers.
4. SPI will consider spending money or disposing of Debian's property
when asked to do so by the Project Leader.
5. SPI will spend money or dispose of Debian's property when asked to
do so by a General Resolution of the Developers.
6. SPI will notify the Project when it spends money or disposes of
A. Standard Resolution Procedure
These rules apply to communal decisonmaking by committees and
plebiscites, where stated above.
The formal procedure begins when a draft resolution is proposed and
seconded, as required.
A.1. Discussion and Amendment
1. Following the proposal, the resolution may be discussed.
Amendments may be made formal by being proposed and seconded
according to the requirements for a new resolution, or directly by
the proposer of the original resolution.
2. A formal amendment may be accepted by the resolution's proposer,
in which case the formal resolution draft is immediately changed
3. If a formal amendment is not accepted, or one of the seconders of
the resolution does not agree with the acceptance by the proposer
of a formal amendment, the amendment remains as an amendment and
will be voted on.
4. If an amendment accepted by the original proposer is not to the
liking of others, they may propose another amendment to reverse
the earlier change (again, they must meet the requirements for
proposer and seconder(s).)
A.2. Calling for a vote
1. The proposer of a motion or an amendment may call for a vote,
providing that the minimum discussion period (if any) has elapsed.
2. The proposer of a motion may call for a vote on any or all of the
amendments individually or together; the proposer of an amendment
may call for a vote only on that amendment and related amendments.
3. The minimum discussion period is counted from the time the last
formal amendment was accepted, or the last related formal
amendment was accepted if an amendment is being voted on, or since
the whole resolution was proposed if no amendments have been
proposed and accepted.
A.3. Voting procedure
1. Each independent set of related amendments is voted on in a
separate ballot. Each such ballot has as options all the sensible
combinations of amendments and options, and an option Further
Discussion. If Further Discussion wins then the entire resolution
procedure is set back to the start of the discussion period. No
quorum is required for an amendments.
2. When the final form of the resolution has been determined it is
voted on in a final ballot, in which the options are Yes, No and
Further Discussion. If Further Discussion wins then the entire
procedure is set back to the start of the discussion period.
3. The vote taker (if there is one) or the voters (if voting is done
by public pronouncement) may arrange for these ballots to be held
simultaneously, even (for example) using a single voting message.
If amendment ballot(s) and the final ballot are combined in this
way then it must be possible for a voter to vote differently in
the final ballot for each of the possible forms of the final draft
4. Votes may be cast during the voting period, as specified
5. The votes are counted according to the Concorde Vote Counting. If
a quorum is required then the default option is Further
6. In cases of doubt the Project Secretary shall decide on matters of
procedure (for example, whether particular amendments should be
considered independent or not).
A.3. Withdrawing resolutions or amendments
The proposer and/or seconder(s) of a resolution or amendment (unless
it has been accepted) may withdraw it. In this case new proposer(s)
and/or seconder(s) may come forward keep it alive, in which case the
first remaining seconder becomes the new proposer (if the original
proposer withdrew) and in any case the other proposer(s) and/or
seconder(s) become seconders.
If a proposed resolution has not been discussed, amended, voted on or
otherwise dealt with for 4 weeks then it is considered to have been
A.5. Concorde Vote Counting
1. This is used to determine the winner amongst a list of options.
Each ballot paper gives a ranking of the voter's preferred
options. (The ranking need not be complete.)
2. Option A is said to Dominate option B if strictly more ballots
prefer A to B than prefer B to A.
3. All options which are Dominated by at least one other option are
discarded, and references to them in ballot papers will be
4. If there is any option which Dominates all others then that is the
5. If there is now more than one option remaining Single
Transferrable Vote will be applied to choose amongst those
+ The number of first preferences for each option is counted,
and if any option has more than half it is the winner.
+ Otherwise the option with the lowest number of first
preferences is eliminated and its votes redistributed
according to the second preferences.
+ This elimination procedure is repeated, moving down ballot
papers to 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. preferences as required, until
one option gets more than half of the `first' preferences.
6. In the case of ties the elector with a casting vote will decide.
That elector does not get a normal vote.
7. If a supermajority is required the number of Yes votes in the
final ballot is reduced by an appropriate factor. Strictly
speaking, for a supermajority of F:A, the number of ballots which
prefer Yes to X (when considering whether Yes Dominates X or X
Dominates Yes) or the number of ballots whose first (remaining)
preference is Yes (when doing STV comparisons for winner and
elimination purposes) is multiplied by a factor A/F before the
comparison is done. This means that a 2:1 vote, for example, means
twice as many people voted for as against; abstentions are not
8. If a quorum is required, there must be at least that many votes
which prefer the winning option to the default option. If there
are not then the default option wins after all.
When the Standard Resolution Procedure is to be used, the text which
refers to it must specify what is sufficient to have a draft
resolution proposed and/or seconded, what the minimum discussion
period is, and what the voting period is. It must also specify any
supermajority and/or the quorum (and default option) to be used.
B. Use of language and typography
The present indicative (`is', for example) means that the statement is
a rule in this consitution. `May' or `can' indicates that the person
or body has discretion. `Should' means that it would be considered a
good thing if the sentence were obeyed, but it is not binding. Text
marked as a citation, such as this, is rationale and does not form
part of the constitution. It may be used only to aid interpretation in
cases of doubt.
Ian Jackson, at home. Local/personal: firstname.lastname@example.org
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