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Voting Systems
Proposition - Yes/No/ with Concensus Rules

UN Security Council

Description:  This is a simple "Yes" or "No" proposition, with different words used to highlight a point.

The use of "Concensus Rules" (also known as "Veto" or "No Vote") allows voters to BLOCK the "Yes" vote. This is done when a voter selects the "Block Concensus" Checkbox on the voting form.

This is a simple "Yes" or "No" proposition, with different words used to highlight a point.

The use of "Concensus Rules" (also known as "Veto" or "No Vote") allows voters to BLOCK the "Yes" vote. This is done when a voter selects the "Block Concensus" Checkbox on the voting form.

Here is a description of what Concensus Voting is all about.

"Agree" - Implies the voter agrees with the option.

"Abstain" - implies the voter does not want to be part of the decision. In tallying the results, the 50% required does not take into account these votes.

"Disagree" - implies the voter does not agree with the proposition, but they are willing to "live with it, if that whats the majority want." This is subtly different to the "abstain" position because these votes will count toward the total number of votes (of which 50% will be needed to pass)

"Block Concensus" - implies the voter does not agree with the proposition AND they "cannot live with it".

A proposition is deemed to have been accepted when the number of Yes Votes is greater than the number of No votes, AND the number of Block Concensus votes is less than a specified percentage (usually 15% however this is often a level determined by the group).

Commentary:  A fundamental agreement within the group to achieve concensus is what makes this process work.

Always keep in mind that concensus is more about the process of dialog than about hard physical numbers like a "simple majority" of 50%

Without this pre-agreed determination to have a continuing dialog, a group will simply end up a fighting until one side of the debate "gets their way."

Concensus decision making has its place in a lot of forums and becuase it "includes" rather than "excludes". The fundamental principle requires participation that is a lot more advanced than a simple democratic vote (50% or more). When going for a simple majority the way is left open to polarise the electorate. Representative democratic systems that employ the principle of 50% majority voting typically work best when there are fewer parties. Those that do best survive because they lack representation from the broad spectrum of opinions and viewpoints. Co-alitions are formed and deals are made in order to ensure the "numbers". This creates "environmental conditions" which facilitate the "evolution" of certain traits. In a machiavellian sense the most likely to survive in this environment are the tested and proven hard core politicians who know how to wheel and deal. Number crunching and back room negotiations become order of the day.

When open concensus is required then the process is vastly different. To get policy up then the policy must be acceptable to the "overwhelming" majority. There is less room here for ideaological extremes to prevail. As a result of this the main stream "common sense" approach will work. Whats more, because it is an inclusive process then the "professional polictician" is severely hampered because anyone can block concensus. Concensus decision making is not a good environment for the career politician.

Perhaps even more importantly, the concensus model requires all involved participants to take responsibility for the process and the outcome. Its about collective ownership of the negotiated outcome.

It is cooperation rather than a structured process of fighting.

History:  Democratic systems date back to the ancient greek city states, and negotiations in within a group has always involved some level of trying to achieve general agreement so that the entire group is resolved to a course of action.

The earliest examples include the way in which some monastrys and ashrams have been run (ie in a community based approach). Early Glastonbury is a very good example of earlier concensus decision making.

Juries work on a system of concensus in that they usually require a greater than 50% result to accept the proposition (that the defendant is guilty). The principle of innocent until proven guilty provides the framework reference point to start from.

In recent times, perhaps the most profound first use of concensus rules can be seen with the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council. USA, Russia (formerly USSR), China, UK and France all have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and they all have the right to veto a resolution. There are many arguements for and against the effectiveness of this setup. Some would argue that this has resulted in the disempowerment of the UN, whilst others would argue that it prevents any one national entity from dominating the process of global decision making and in so doing has prevented other countries from deciding that war was a preferable option to negotiation if they can not get their way.

For the most part concensus decsion making is predominate in social / human rights and evironmental groups. The Australian Greens (and it international counterparts) have a core principle of concensus decision making in its party structure.

Often changes to a constitution will require more than a 2/3rds majority vote, which makes this form of ballot essentially one of concensus.

Also, when no one single party has a simple majority from an election, they can sometimes join with the second largest party (the opposition) to form what is often called a "government of national unity". In South Africa's first post apartied election, even though the ANC had a 50% majority, they opted to form a government of national unity.

Examples:  The Jury

The Constitutional Convention process

The UN Security Council (see above)

Also, in order to change the constitution of the USA there needs to be 75% majority vote in both houses. In a way, anything requiring more than a 50% simple majority is a form of concensus decision making...

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