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Re: Informal Discussion: Identities of Voters Casting a Particular Ballot are No Longer Public

>>>>> "Don" == Don Armstrong <don@debian.org> writes:
    Don> We should also enable independent tabulation,[1] which you get
    Don> automatically when votes are not secret. [Devotee enables this
    Don> currently as well, but future non-devotee systems might not.]

I think the following text already in the constitution is sufficient to
get you independent tabulation; am I missing something?
>Votes, tallies, and
>       results are not revealed during the voting period; after the vote
>       the Project Secretary lists all the votes cast. 

    Don> I'd also appreciate hearing more specific examples of where
    Don> someone wasn't able to vote their true preference because the
    Don> vote was public. I currently plan to offer (or second) an
    Don> amendment to this proposal which strikes the section making all
    Don> votes private and rank that higher than one which struck it,
    Don> but I'm open to be convinced otherwise.

    Don> My personal reasoning is that I see my role as a voting project
    Don> member as more of a stewardship role where I'm trying to decide
    Don> what is best for the project, rather than what is best for me
    Don> personally, and I want to be seen as being a good steward for
    Don> the project.

First, it looks like many participants in the discussion support your
view.  Right now, I haven't seen sufficient support for this proposal
that I would propose it as a GR.  If some of the people who advocated
for this during the rms GR don't step forward, I think we can avoid a

So, I think the key question is the one you raise above.
Are we acting as steward or are we acting on behalf of ourselves when we
vote in Debian?

In elections in my country, we have secret ballots.
One of the main reasons for that is that we don't want to be held to
account for our vote say either by our employers, or by a group of thugs
with baseball bats unhappy about how we voted.
That is, when we are making our own decisions as voters, we don't want
to have to explain our vote to anyone, and we don't want people to be
able to change their behavior toward us based on our vote.

In contrast, we typically demand that our elected representatives vote
publicly because we do want to hold them accountable: we want them to
account for ttheir votes to us when we decide whether to return them at
the next election.

If we are steward as Debian Developers, who are we stewards for?
Who should be able to hold us accountable?
I don't think we are representatives in the traditional sense of a
representative democracy.
Developers are not elected, and the same body that could potentially
remove us also has the franchise.
We have made a commitment that our goals are our users and the free
software community.
But I think the question is whether we will make better judgments  in
respecting those goals if we  need to be worried about how our votes
will be seen years later or how they will be used by people who disagree
with us.

Let's take the rms GR.

First, as a sponsor of one of the ballot options, I can definitely say I
got a lot more feedback both from within Debian and outside of Debian
than on any other thing I've sponsored.
Steve certainly found feedback he got to be harassment.
I did as well.

My understanding is that people on the other side of the issue got
feedback they believe was inappropriate as well.

My skin is fairly thick, but I absolutely can understand why people
aware of that harassment and contemplating voting would choose not to.
I think it is realistic to imagine that if Debian had made a statement
one way or another, someone who disagreed with that statement would have
done the leg work to make it easy for the Internet to express their
feelings at a set of voters.

Remember that the election was very close; one or two votes absolutely
would have changed the results.

But let's take some concrete examples.
I am not sure there were any FSF staff members who were DDs at the time
of the election.
(There have been FSF staff members who are developers in the past, but
there were a number of staffing changes at the FSF around then).
I think it entirely reasonable that a staff member might be worried
about how their employer would view a vote  critical of the president of
the organization.

Similarly, imagine a prominant developer at one of the organizations who
signed one of the letters and who was a DD.
It seems they might be uncomfortable voting against the position their
organization had taken.

I think these are both cases where our users and the free software
community would be better served by allowing people to vote what they
thought was best independent of pressure from outside employers or from
the Internet at large.
I think the concern about employers is significant enough that only
making votes available to other developers would be insufficient.

For me, I can't think of good reasons to actually know how someone else
voted.  I've been tempted to use that data over the years (and have
glanced at it from time to time), but a lot of the uses I would
considered were sketchy enough that I decided it would be inappropriate.
As an example, do I really want to decide whether I'm interested in
working with someone based on positions they took years ago?

Philip Hands did provide one good use of voter data: finding someone
who disagreed to talk to them about an issue.  I think that the list
of sponsors and those who took a public decision during discussions will
be sufficient that it will not be difficult to find someone  who can
explain an alternate position even if we hide who voted for what.


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