[ppml] Consensus and voting: a proposal

Bill Darte BillD at cait.wustl.edu
Mon Oct 2 06:52:45 EDT 2006

I believe that Owen is correct in his observations.

The straw polls at meetings are a means to provide tangible evidence of consensus, and are useful in that.  But, only after there has been debate on the ppml long before the meeting and a presentation and opportunity for discussion in the meeting prior to and often complicated series of poll questions posed in such a way as to 'tease' out the subtleties of support.

I might add that there are Board members and AC as well as some who attend meeting regularly who are 'contrarian' and offer the 'devil's advocate' position for consideration.  Also, in meeting assessing consensus, individual AC members will often bring up opposing points of view that might be in there experience, but were unexposed by others on the ppml or in the meeting.

Many of the AC, perhaps all, are not happy with the polling process, not because it is not valuable, but because it represents only those in the meetings...and most often, only a portion of those.  As such, the AC uses the polls judiciously looking skeptically at results that are no wholely lopsided and large in number relative to those in attendance.  Even so, it is only one aspect of the consensus judgement. All externalities of ppml, side conversations, pleas from individuals, other mailing lists, personal experience and observations, all are brought to the table.

Welcome to all suggestions on how to improve the involvement others in the process and to improve the breadth, transparancy and objectivity of the consensus building and judgement process.

The AC will make a concensus judgement given what they have to work with, but I can assure you we are quite conservative in our assessments.  Even then, when the AC is convinced that consensus exists for a decision on a policy proposal, the proposal is exposed once again on the ppml for rebuttal or support as those involved/interested may choose.

Bill Darte

-----Original Message-----
From: ppml-bounces at arin.net on behalf of Owen DeLong
Sent: Sun 10/1/2006 11:55 PM
To: Sam Weiler
Cc: ppml at arin.net
Subject: Re: [ppml] Consensus and voting: a proposal

On Oct 1, 2006, at 12:11 PM, Sam Weiler wrote:

> 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.
I'm not convinced of this. I think the debate before the straw polls
tends to provide the kind of qualitative information you claim to be
looking for.  I think the straw polls are useful in guaging the  
properties of support and opposition. I would also point out that in
a number of cases, the straw poll has been conducted in a manner
other than a straight yes/no vote.  For example, 2005-1 was able to
achieve consensus only because we were able to provide alternative
options to several critical chunks of the policy, allowing for fine  
of the policy in the straw poll process.
> 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.
If it were just the straw polls by themselves, I would agree with  
you.  However,
the straw polls are conducted at the end of debate on the topic.   
Often after
significant debate.  As such, I think they provide a useful metric to  
what percentage of those present are in support or opposition of the  

If there is opposition to the proposal, but, none of the opponents  
stepped up
to the mic. to explain said opposition, I don't think that means the  
should be disregarded.

> 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,
There's no real provision for gauging the AC's desire on this in time
to call the question if they want it called.  This would essentially  
a 15-person side-vote on each item to determine whether or not to
call a straw poll.
>     -- 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.
I completely disagree here.  The opposition not wanting to approach
the microphone should not eliminate their voting rights. This would
disenfranchise a number of ARIN constituents for no other reason
that they are microphone-shy.
>     -- 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).
This is such an important aspect of the consensus gauging process
that I am not comfortable with a fuzzy-logic set of rules for how it
is to be conducted.  If you can come up with an exact procedure
for such delegation, I would recommend submitting it for consideration
as a modification to the IRPEP.
> 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.
I'm pretty sure the AC (or at least the AC members) already contemplate
all the proposals prior to the meeting, including what support, what
opposition, and what questions are observed and expected. In my
opinion, the debate prior to the calling of the question provides the
qualitative information desired in most cases. I have not observed
a distinct lack of opposition speaking in the debates, so perhaps your
observation is different from mine. The straw polls add a quantitative
perspective on the magnitude of opposition, support, and, in many
cases, apathy.


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