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Re: Summary of voting irregularities



On Tue, Oct 10, 2000 at 04:44:20PM -0400, Buddha Buck wrote:
> 1. The Social Contract cannot be modified under the Debian Constitution.

This is the least controversial interpretation, because it allows for very
little subjective projection of desired meaning onto the text of the
Constitution.  As you noted, both Manoj Srivastava and I (and the sponsors
of our Resolutions) feel that the best way to ensure full mutability of
non-technical policy documents is to amend the language of the Constitution
to permit it.

> 2. Modifying the Social Contract is implicitly issuing a new Social 
> Contract, and thus allowed with "simple" majority.

This is the most obvious analysis that follows directly from the text of
the Constitution itself.  It does, however, make assumptions about what the
author of the Constitution "meant".  Interpretation 1, while not the most
expedient reading for the purposes of getting changes made quickly, does
not suffer this flaw.

> 3. Modifying the Social Contract is implicitly modifying the Constitution, 
> and thus allowed with a 3:1 supermajority

This is not a reasonable conclusion, since section 1 says:

  This document describes the organisational structure for formal
  decision-making in the Project. It does not describe the goals of the
  Project or how it achieves them, or contain any policies except those
  directly related to the decision-making process.

The Social Contract very obviously describes the goals of the project.  It
is this not consistent to view it as "part" of the Constitution in any
sense.

> 4. Modifying the Social Contract is implicitly allowed via some other 
> clause in the Constitution no one has mentioned yet, and the voting 
> requirements thus determined by that clause.

It does no good to resort to mechanisms that no one can perceive.  I
suggest people read the Constitution themselves to see if they can discern
some appropriate procedure that may have been overlooked hence.

> It's a hard choice to make.  Good arguments could be made, and were, for 1, 
> 2 or 3 (dunno about 4, though).  Because of the ambiguity, Branden and 
> Manoj have both proposed amendments that would clarify the issue -- not 
> necessarily change it, but to remove the ambiguity.
> 
> The Secretary chose 3.

Which is, as I said, an unreasonable conclusion flatly contradicted by the
language of the Constitution itself.  It would make more sense to say that
both proposed amendments to the Social Contract must fail until and unless
the Consitution explicitly permits them.

> >3. There has been a suggestion that because of the Secretary's
> >inaction, the proposal and the amendment have expired.  This places us
> >in unknown territory since the Secretary already issued a ballot.
> >Furthermore, it leaves us in a nasty situation whereby a single person
> >can kill any resolution by ignoring it.
> 
> My personal opinion is that the suggestion is untenable on it's 
> face.

"Untenable on its face"?  What exactly does that mean?  What, internal to
my analysis, is unreasonable?  You seem to feel that my proposal to expire
the amendments is *impractical*.  That is something else entirely.

> True, there has been considerable time with no debate on the 
> proposal, but a Call for Votes was made, indicating that people were ready 
> to vote and bring closure.  The failure of a parliamentary officer to 
> perform his duties should not kill a valid proposal.

On the contrary, this is one of the few concrete measures we have of any
Project Secretary failing to discharge his or her duties (and the Chairman
of the Technical Committee for failing to pick up the ball, and of the
other members of the Technical Committee Project Leader to not raise a
ruckus about both of these).

It is good to have quantifiable measures of performance, especially when
you're dealing with volunteer officers.  It's not to Project Secretary's
job to see that there are few or many ballots in the course of the year;
however it IS his job to issue a ballot whenever it is appropriate.

If the Project Secretary is allowed to cover over his mistake, where is his
disincentive to procrastinate again?  (Or, at least, does he have as much?)

Recall that the Constitution was drafted in the wake of the (sometimes
tempestuous) leadership of Bruce Perens, as a means of compartmentalizing
power within the project and creating accountability.  The position of
Project Secretary is a powerful one; it must be handled with diligence and
care.  It has relatively few avenues of accountability; we must not
squander those it does have.

Would I personally like to see the vote go ahead?  Yes, I'd like to see it
over with.  But Section A.5 is pretty unambiguous:

  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
  withdrawn.

Note that this includes "voted on".  The Project Secretary, or someone with
authority acting in his stead, is the one with the power to issue a ballot.
The Developers cannot.  The DPL cannot.  The Constitution asserts these
facts also.  Why does the Constitution not say in section A.5, "Failure to
act by the Project Secretary or his appointee in drafting a ballot and
conducting a vote is excepted under this rule."?

Adjudicating disputes about the meaning of the Constitution (7.1.3) does
not mean unilaterally introducing rules that have no foundation within it.

> >4. During the Secretary's absence, the Constitution specifies that the
> >chairman of the Technical Committee should step up in his place.
> >However, that person is Ian Jackson and he failed with this duty.  The
> >Technical Committee have failed to replace him with someone more
> >active in the Project.

I'm just quoting this because it bears repeating.

-- 
G. Branden Robinson             |        "To be is to do"   -- Plato
Debian GNU/Linux                |        "To do is to be"   -- Aristotle
branden@debian.org              |        "Do be do be do"   -- Sinatra
http://www.debian.org/~branden/ |

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