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[Comment-Geo] Failing safe
Thanks, Diane, for the helpful information. I really appreciate your doing this all the time.
I also appreciate your report on the MAC discussion. That makes it possible for us to discuss issues with committee members such as yourself on this list.
Diane Cabell wrote:
> I cannot speak for the Board, but the MAC recognized the problems inherent with
> geographical diversity requirements. However, our consensus was that if the
> registered membership itself was not representational, then no method of vote
> tallying would make the election more so.
Let me differ. A (stacked) deck produces different results with different systems. In a system of head-to-head, winner take all elections, a slim majority
(or an organized minority) can control all seats. In a proportional representation scheme, there will always be minority representatives, it is only a
question of which and how many. Capture is easiest under a winner-take-all system.
> I believe that it is unlikely we will
> attract vast numbers of voters in the early years and thus, the greater risk at
> this time is that a single special interest may be able to enroll enough members to
> capture the election.
Agreed, on both points. And, the early boards will make the structural decisions with which we will live for years. Representation of diverse interests is
most critical at this stage.
> Reasonable people can disagree on this, Eric, and we tried to find some objective
> criteria by which we could define capture so as to try and inhibit it. For
> example, what if 70% of the registered at-large members were from San Jose, CA?
> Would that be evidence that the membership itself is not "representative" or would
> that just be evidence that Karl Auerbach convinced his entire theater group to
> plunge into Internet politics? :-)
I realize that your example just happened to be geographic. You could as easily have posited a flood of Microsoft employees or ISPs. You are not suggesting
that geographic capture poses a greater risk than one by the ORSC, CORE or WIPO. In fact, geography has relatively little to do with the issues we face.
There is no single overiding interest which will bind the voters from San Jose to support a fellow resident of that town just because of his address. They are
going to vote according to other criteria.
> ... However, we ran out of time before finding a fail-safe
> solution to this conflict, if one can ever be found.
This comment provides its own answer. When in doubt, fail safe.
Joe Sims warned us as follows:
>...The only thing you
> mention that might not be reversible is the establishment of a mechanism
> for the election of nine Board members by an At Large membership; if done
> badly, and the result is capture by an economic or philosophical (or for
> that matter religious or just mischeivous) minority...this part of the
> process needs to be done carefully,
> for it probably is not reversible by anything other than a governmental
> takeover -- which is, after all, what we are trying to avoid...
We are going to make a choice. If you ran out of time before finding the mechanism which guarantees perfectly fair and proportional representation with no
chance of capture, you must ask which of your options is more likely to fail "safe?"
But, more to the point--if you ran out of time before finding the perfect answer, why choose something which you have already rejected in
principal--head-to-head, winner take all contests? The MAC specifically recommended cumulative voting in elections (and, you have told me that is understood
to include proportional representation). Cumulative voting will not be possible in single seat "regional" elections. Thus, you have a conundrum with no
solution. So, fail safe. Institutionalize the higher value--representation of diverse interests. Geographic diversity is just one of our concerns and will
take care of itself under a proportional representation scheme to the extent the voters consider it relevant.
> Until the Internet population
> is more evenly balanced, however, the non-US users have a legitimate concern that
> their voices will be drowned out by the heavy American vote.
It is definitely a concern, no matter the merits. But, how well is it addressed in a system of single seat elections in five huge regions (e.g. Mongolia to
New Zealand!)? What comfort will that provide for a netizen in Singapore? Is that benefit worth the price you have to pay (i.e. inability to organize
according to more significant interests)?
This is not a trivial issue. It determines everything which happens from here. We know what we want to accomplish, and have identified the mechanism which we
think most likely so attain that purpose. Now, all we need is the determination to heed Joe's warning and do this thing right. There will be no "Plan B" to
fall back on once we make a fatal mistake.