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Re: Bundled votes and the secretary

On Wed, Dec 17, 2008 at 12:25:14PM -0600, Manoj Srivastava wrote:
> > As a matter of fact, there's that too.  This ballot has been assembled
> > in contravention of the Standard Resolution Procedure, which requires
> > that new ballot options be proposed as formal *amendments* to an
> > outstanding GR proposal in order to appear on the same ballot.  Manoj
> > has overstepped his authority in order to group separately proposed
> > resolutions about orthogonal questions on a single ballot, over the
> > explicit objections of the proposer/seconders.  This is not a power
> > granted to the secretary under A.2.

>         All related options are placed on the ballot, no? I am working
>  on the basis that any proposal, and all related proposals that may
>  affect the action to be taken, must be on the ballot.

What A.3.1. actually says is:

  Each resolution and its related amendments is voted on in a single ballot
  that includes an option for the original resolution, each amendment, and
  the default option (where applicable).

That doesn't give the secretary the power to group separate proposals on a
single ballot merely because they touch on the same subject matter; it says
only that related *amendments* belong on the same ballot.

>         None of the amendments in recent votes take the formal form (I
>  amend foo, and replace all the words in the proposal with the words
>  below). Amendments (made formal by seconds) just propose what the
>  alternate handling being proposed, and related proposals go on the
>  ballot. This is how the "related amendment" has been handled in
>  practice over the last several years.

Where there's ambiguity about whether a proposer intended an amendment vs. a
stand-alone proposal, I think it's perfectly reasonable to allow the
secretary latitude in determining intent so as to not get bogged down in
proceduralism.  I don't think that was the case here for
<20081114201224.GA11008@intrepid.palfrader.org> - though I'm having a hard
time coming up with references at the moment, I believe there were
objections from some of the seconders of this proposal that it was meant to
be a stand-alone proposal rather than an amendment.

When I wrote my earlier message, I believed this was much more clear-cut; on
review, I see that the original proposer left the question rather open by
referring to his GR as a "GR (option)".  So there are still two
possibilities here:

- enough of the 17 seconders expressed no opinion on the question of whether
  this shoud be a separate GR, as would allow interpreting their intent in
  favor of treating it as an amendment and putting it on a ballot with the
  original proposal
- more than 12 of the formal seconders objected to placing this proposal on
  the same ballot with the original due to the orthogonal issues, in which
  case it's not constitutionally valid to override their stated intent by
  treating it as an amendment.

So chances are, there's enough ambiguity here that it's constitutionally
valid to put it on the same ballot as a "related amendment".

There's a separate issue here, however; namely, that the secretary is the
*only* line of defense against gaming of the GR process by a small group of
developers who propose an uncontroversial but orthogonal amendment that will
always win over the alternatives, in the process preventing the will of the
project from being formally enacted:


It's not unconstitutional for the secretary to keep orthogonal amendments on
the same ballot, and it is the secretary's prerogative to keep amendments
grouped on a single ballot if he believes they are related.  But when there
are multiple orthogonal issues being considered on a single ballot, choosing
to not split those ballots means disenfranchising the proposers of the
less-popular-but-popular-enough-to-pass option.  Given that developers
already have the power to propose as many serial GRs as needed in order to
reconcile incompatibilities between ratified resolutions, the
disenfranchisement is a much worse exploit of our voting system than
anything that could be achieved by forcing partially-orthogonal options onto
separate ballots.

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
Ubuntu Developer                                    http://www.debian.org/
slangasek@ubuntu.com                                     vorlon@debian.org

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