Voting on amendments

Olli Salmi olli.salmi at
Fri Jan 2 00:08:57 PST 1998

I've been wondering if voting on several amendments in a debate has
something to do with Condorcet. The order of voting is different in
different countries. I know of the following systems:

There is a main motion. If an amendment is moved, it's voted on before the
next one is moved. In all other systems everything is voted upon at the end
of the debate.

French (Germany?/Denmark/EU/UN)
The amendment that is most different from the main motion is voted upon
first and then the next amendments in a descending order of difference. If
an amendment gets a majority, it is carried and the vote is stopped. (The
first one to get a majority is carried.)

The order of voting is the same as in France, but the vote is always
between two motions/amendments. The one that gets the majority is put
against the next one until each (each pair) has been voted upon (the last
one to get a majority is carried). The final one is not voted upon unless
there's been a specific motion to reject it.

A viva voce vote for each proposal, shouting aye/no at the same time. If
the meeting is not happy with what the chairman hears, they can request a
show of hands, in which the chairman's favourite is put against another one
which is decided by a viva voce vote. If a show of hands is requested at
every stage, it is the same as the Finnish system.

You vote for all the motions/ammendments at the same time. If none gets an
absolute majority, the meeting votes which of the two amendments with the
least votes should be dropped, unless the meeting has decided that the one
with the least votes will be dropped. The voting goes on until a majority
is formed. This is used for elections as well; the members of the Federal
Council (cabinet) are elected this way, one at a time.
By the way, in multimember majority elections the required majority in
Switzerland is sum of votes /number of seats rounded up, not the number of
ballots /2.

To me, the Swiss system looks the most reliable. I'm very dubious about the
French system, because the voters can't put the amendments in an order of
preference and they don't know which the alternatives are in a given vote.
It might spread into Finland. Do I have cause for worry? Can I trust it
just because it's used in the European Union and the United Nations?

I hope this isn't too much off topic.

Olli Salmi

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