[ppml] Consensus and voting: a proposal

Sam Weiler weiler at tislabs.com
Sun Oct 1 15:11:35 EDT 2006

I'm concerned that the reliance on straw polls during ARIN's public
policy meetings significantly impedes progress towards consensus.
Accordingly, I'd like to see ARIN eliminate or seriously revamp the
use of straw polls (voting) in the public policy meeting.

In my understanding, consensus requires consideration of the concerns
of all parties, including those opposed to a particular proposal.  A
prerequisite to such consideration is having all parties voice their
concerns in enough detail to allow for meaningful dialog.

In my experience at ARIN meetings, the up-or-down straw polls on
policy proposals often don't provide enough information about the
nature of the opposition to permit a meaningful attempt to find a
compromise or resolve the disagreement.  In many of these cases, the
AC has used the results of those straws poll to justify a finding that
there's not consensus, but without giving us a path toward consensus
-- we often don't know why there's opposition to a proposal.

By way of comparison, the IETF (at least the working groups I'm active
in) asks for opposition to described in some detail, which gives those
tasked with judging consensus a rich set of data to work with.  It
also gives the participants in the discussion a chance to dialong
about the objections to a proposal and attempt to reach consensus.

In order to keep us from deadlocking for want of understanding, I'd
like to see the AC make a point of considering opposition to a
proposal only when that opposition is voiced in enough detail for the
AC to clearly understand the opposition (and, by implication, in
enough detail to allow a dialog on the substance).  To that end, I
propose the following changes:

-- In the public policy meeting, solicit straw polls only reluctantly
    and only when the AC thinks that taking one will significantly help
    in reaching or judging consensus.  In particular,

    -- In the absence of voiced opposition to a proposal (and,
       presumably, the presence of any voiced support), don't do any
       straw poll at all.

    -- In the presence of voiced opposition, allow the AC, at its own
       discretion, to poll for 1) support for a proposal and 2)
       objection on specific grounds, with each separate reason for
       opposition being polled separately.  I suggest that the AC
       delegate the authority to ask for this poll to particular
       individuals (perhaps the shepherds for each proposal, or the AC
       members on stage during the presentation).

It might further help to have the AC, prior to the public policy 
meeting, specifically contemplate 1) what opposition it expects to 
hear on a particular proposal and 2) whether a straw poll about that 
particular item will help the community reach consensus.  That group 
discussion can then guide the AC members tasked with deciding, in real 
time, whether to do a straw poll during the meeting.

-- Sam Weiler

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