[EM] divided house problem of close vote (50%+1)

Michael Poole mdpoole at troilus.org
Tue Mar 13 17:39:51 PDT 2007

Howard Swerdfeger writes:

> There is a conflict that exists between some people when counting a 
> simple yes|No ballot. Some would say that a simple majority is all that 
> is needed, while others would suggest an absolute majority or super 
> majority should be required for some decisions, still others would argue 
> for some element of randomness to obtain true democracy.
> To some degree all of the above methods have been discussed on this list 
> so I will not repeat arguments here.
> Personally, I see problems with making major decisions based on a slim 
> simple majority, but I also do not long term effects that result from 
> super majority rule.
> So here is my solution to the divided house problem of close vote with 
> only a Yes|No option. Define an iterative solution.
> For every vote there are 3 possible outcomes:
> 1. It passes with a super majority.
> 2. It fails with a super majority.
> 3. It is 'close', and a new vote is auto-magically triggered
>       * scheduled to allow for debate and discussion in between votes.

In general, I dislike indefinitely repeated elections because they
increase voting costs for both the society and the voters in propotion
to the number of rounds they require.

As a real-world alternative, for votes within the Debian project,
there is usually a "further discussion" option in addition to any
specific candidates.  This option also replaces "no" options when the
other proposals are changes to the status quo.  In an election to
office, this could provide a sort of approval threshold in an
otherwise Condorcet method, although I do not think the Debian
elections use the option in this way.

I believe that it is worthwhile to have such an option and -- at least
for "ordinary" topics -- use more straightforward majorities rather
than iterative voting that requires a supermajority (with carryover
permitted).  If the results are within the margin of error, there is a
good argument for re-examining the results, but I am unconvinced that
a second round of voting is the right solution.

I say "ordinary" topics because changes to areas such as rules of
procedure will generally require a supermajority to change, and a
clear majority that falls short of the supermajority should not be
able to effect the change even if the elections are repeated.  (This
could be addressed in your proposal by adjusting the -50% factor to be
the necessary approval level for the proposal.)

Michael Poole

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