Voting on amendments

Saari Saari at
Mon Jan 5 07:57:25 PST 1998

Thanks for the nice summary.  My take on the various methods begins by
questioning the blind acceptance of "majority" as a passing criterium.  I
would be happier with a "ten to one ratio of support over opposition" as a
blanket standard.

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. 

[The order in which amendments are offered can often determine the outcome.
This gives significant additional power to the chairperson.  Also, in many
cases a successful amendment will make the proposal WORSE, not better.  (If
you are opposed to the original proposal, then you might choose to support an
amendment to make the proposal more extreme - if this appears likely to result
in eventual failure of the modified proposal.)  The "Robert's Rules" system is
thus unreliable.]

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 judgement of "most different" is done by the chairperson or some other
small subset of the group.  Again, excess influence.]
 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.

[Again, choice of pairing order can determine the outcome - giving excess
power to the chairperson.]
 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.

[In the Swiss system, can you independently vote FOR, AGAINST, or NEITHER on
every single proposal (good), or can you only vote for one of them (not good)?
 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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