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Responses to the lawyer's current bylaws draft

The lawyer's bylaws draft
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Below are suggestions from Steve Chessin of Californians for Electoral Reform


From: Steve Chessin
To: wildrose@pon.net
Cc: webmaster@wbai.net
Sent: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 11:35 PM
Subject: Comments on the Lawyer's draft etc.

Hi, Carol.

Please share with the bylaws revision committee and/or the iPNB Board as appropriate.

I'm mainly restricting my comments to technical matters related to elections, plus one egregious language error (made more than once, I'm afraid).

Comments on the Lawyer's draft as posted at http://www.wbai.net/bylaws_revise/br_draft_and_letter1-17-03.html

1. Article Three, Section 8C, requires a vote of "51%" to approve a matter.

Better language would be "a majority". "Majority" means "more than half". Some people word this as "50% plus one vote", which some abbreviate to "50% plus one", which others misinterpret as "51%". This is wrong, and should just be "a majority", unless the intent is that you really want a super-majority of 51% required to approve an action.

[For bodies of 100 or fewer voters, "majority" and "51%" are the same, but once you have more than 100 voters they are different. For example, if 10000 Listener-Sponsor Members vote on an issue, 5001 would constitute a majority but 5100 would be needed to achieve a 51% threshold.]

I note that "51%" is also used in Article Four, Section 7, and in Article Six, Section 5, but since those contexts involve bodies much smaller than 100 people, the distinction is moot.

2. Article Three, Section 8E1 (description of Instant Runoff Voting).

The last sentence:
In the event of a tie, the candidate w/the greatest number of the votes is elected.

makes no sense. In IRV (and in STV; see (3) below), there are no ties in determining a winner. Ties can occur when determining which person has the fewest votes and must be eliminated before the next round of counting. But the above doesn't resolve such ties.

There are two ways to resolve the ties that can occur:

A. (The "electorally correct" method; used by Cambridge, Massachusetts.) If, when a candidate is to be declared defeated, two or more candidates are tied at the bottom of the poll, that one of the tied candidates shall be declared defeated who was credited with fewest ballots immediately prior to the last transfer of ballots. If two or more of the tied candidates were tied at that stage of the count, also, the second tie shall be decided by referring similarly to the standing of candidates immediately prior to the last transfer of ballots before that. This principle shall be applied successively as many times as may be necessary, a tie shown at any stage of the count being decided by referring to the standing of the tied candidates immediately prior to the last preceding transfer of ballots. Any tie not otherwise provided for shall be decided by lot.
(http://www.ci.cambridge.ma.us/~Election/mgls.html section 9(k).)

B. (The simple method; used almost everywhere else for IRV):
If, when a candidate is to be declared defeated, two or more candidates are tied at the bottom of the poll, that one of the tied candidates to be declared defeated shall be decided by lot.

In practice, most ties occur when there are several write-in candidates who each get just one vote. Language similar to the following resolves that situation simply, without requiring unnecessary coin flips :-) :

If the total number of votes of the two or more candidates credited with the lowest number of votes is less than the number of votes credited to the candidate with the next highest number of votes, those candidates with the lowest number of votes shall be eliminated simultaneously and their votes transferred to the next-ranked continuing candidate on each ballot in a single counting operation.

(Source: http://www.fairvote.org/library/statutes/sfleg.htm section 13.102(e).)

3. Article Three, Section 8E2 (description of Choice Voting, aka Single Transferable Vote). (Problem with ties and with transfers.)

This has a similar problem with ties as in (2). But before we address that, we have to address another problem, that with transfers.

The lawyer's draft states that transfers from eliminated candidates and transfers of the surplus from elected candidates are performed "At the same time". That doesn't work. One must first transfer the surplus votes from any elected candidates (one at a time or all at once; most systems do it one at a time, starting with whoever currently has the largest surplus, although order of election works, too). Since that transfer can cause more candidates to be elected, transfers of surplus votes continues until all seats have been filled or there are no more surpluses to transfer.

Only after all surpluses have been transferred, and there are still seats to be filled, does one start eliminating candidates.

I suggest you model your language after this:

It deals with both of these issues (as well as the issue of vacancy-filling, but see (5) below).

4. Article Four, Section 9(B), uses "i.e." where I think you want to use "e.g.". I.e. means "that is" and, in this context, implies that the only disqualifying act is appointment to elective office, when in fact there are a number of possible disqualifying acts. "E.g." means "for example", and would be more appropriate here. This same error occurs in Article Six, Section 6(B).

It may also occur in Article Five, Section 2B, unless you really mean to state the complete list of possible ethnic heritages and disallow someone from specifying something you didn't.

5. Article Four, Section 10. There are at least four possible ways to fill a vacancy, of which only two preserve the original proportional intent of the voters:

  1. by appointment by the body (not recommended).
  2. by holding a new election (since only one seat is being filled, can't be proportional)
  3. by taking just those ballots that resulted in the election of the vacating official, each at the weight it had to elect that official, and using them to conduct an IRV election, skipping over any candidates who (a) were elected, (b) have vacated, or (c) have withdrawn from consideration. (This method is called "countback" by the Proportional Representation Society of Australia.) Of course, one has to ask all the potentially eligible candidates if they are still interested in serving before conducting the countback. In effect, this method asks the voters who elected the vacating candidate, *and only those voters*, who their next choice is, and thus arguably preserves not only the proportionality of the original result, but the intent of the original voters.
  4. by recounting all the ballots from scratch, excluding the vacating official as well as any no-longer-willing candidates, stopping the count when the first person not originally elected is declared elected, and having that person fill the vacancy. (This only partially preserves the proportionality of the result, since if this had been the original configuration of candidates, one might find that one or more of the currently seated officials might not have been elected. If you run the count to completion, you'll find out who those people were.)

I personally prefer (c), although CVD's model language at http://www.fairvote.org/library/statutes/choice_voting.htm uses (d). I believe that Voting Solution's ChoicePlus software can handle either method.

6. Article Six, Section 4A. The last sentence says that the Board can't have "an equal number of Directors". Equal to what? I think the lawyer meant "even", but even that isn't necessary. See (7) below.

7. Article Four, Section 2, and Article Six, Section 1C. There is no need for an odd number of delegates/directors. If a majority is needed to pass a motion, and there is no method to break a tie, then a motion loses when there is a tie, since a majority isn't acheived. If the respective Board is electing someone, and their is a tie, then you flip a coin (or otherwise "choose by lot"). Both of these may even be specified by Roberts Rules of Order, and since the bylaws defers to Roberts for things otherwise unspecified, if Roberts says what you want you can leave it unspecified.

Comments on Carol Spooner's email of Sun Jan 26, 2003 2:20 am, as posted at http://www.wbai.net/bylaws_revise/br_draft_response_spooner1-26-03.html

Your (3) on numbers and ties; see (6) and (7) above.

Your (23) on STV. See my (2), (3), and (5), above. I again refer you to http://www.fairvote.org/library/statutes/choice_voting.htm

Your (27) on Elections Supervisor. See

I strongly recommend you consider contracting with the Center for Voting and Democracy as your Elections Supervisor. (Of course, that should not be written into the bylaws.)

Good luck, and I appreciate all your hard work on this.

--Steve Chessin
President, Californians for Electoral Reform
1426 Lloyd Way, Mountain View, CA 94040
(650)-786-6200(w), (650)-962-8412(h), (650)-786-0434(fax)

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
--Margaret Mead

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"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win!"

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