kevin_standlee: (Business Meeting)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
Some months ago, I gave a prospective opinion regarding whether the WSFS Business Meeting in Helsinki this year would be able to apply a name to the proposed YA Award (not a Hugo Award) without having to go through the re-ratification process. At that time, I said that attempting to apply a name to the award would increase the scope of the constitutional amendment and require re-ratification. Since then, I have given the issue more thought, studied the wording of the constitutional amendment, and discussed it with the other members of the WSFS Nitpicking and Flyspecking Committee, and I have come to a new conclusion. I have changed my mind, but only in a limited way.

I now currently intend to rule that the WSFS Business Meeting in Helsinki can apply a name to the YA Award, but only if it does so after ratifying the pending proposal, and not before voting on ratification.

To understand why I've come to this new conclusion, you need to consider the wording of the constitutional amendment, including the temporary provision that is part of it. The relevant part of the proposal that got first passage in Kansas City and is pending ratification in Helsinki is this:

2. Insert the following section before existing Section 3.4.:

3.X: < blank > Award for Best Young Adult Book. The < blank > Award for Best Young Adult Book is given for a book published for young adult readers in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year, with such exceptions as are listed in Section 3.4.

Provided that filling the < blank > in this amendment to name the award shall not be considered a greater change in the scope of the amendment.

The italicized section ("Provided that...") is a temporary provision, like the other temporary provisions regarding re-ratification that are not relevant to this discussion. Such temporary provisions last as part of the Constitution until the conditions to which they apply are complete or no longer relevant.

My previous ruling was that this provision was inoperative if the meeting attempted to apply it to the proposal before ratifying it. But what if they ratify it first? That would make the entire paragraph, including the provision, part of the WSFS Constitution. Ratified constitutional amendments are by definition constitutional, and any specific exception overrides a general rule.

The general rule is that changes to a pending constitutional amendment that would increase the scope of the change require an additional year of ratification. However, this provision, passed by one WSFS Business Meeting (in 2016), if ratified in 2017, would override the general rule for this one specific case, and would allow a single business meeting to fill the blank in the name of the Award immediately, by majority vote. The only way one Business Meeting can bind a future one is through the WSFS Constitution (or to a lesser extent by a standing rule). The opposite is true: this provision looses a Business Meeting (as in "bind and loose") from a general prohibition. The proposal will have been voted upon by two consecutive WSFS Business Meetings, and thus meets the requirement if the Helsinki meeting ratifies it. (If they don't, the question of a name is of course moot.)

There's a corollary to this: Provisions stick to the Constitution until they are exhausted. Should the Helsinki meeting ratify the amendment and not name the award, the provision would still be part of the Constitution, and any future WSFS Business Meeting could name the Award in a single year, by majority vote. Once the Award gets named (either at Helsinki or at a subsequent year), the provision would be exhausted and drop out of the Constitution. Any subsequent attempt to rename the Award would be a new constitutional amendment and would require the usual two-year two-step.

I advise the proponents of this proposal, should they wish to propose a name for the proposed YA Award, to submit any naming resolution as a new constitutional amendment, with a provision that it only be considered after the YA Award ratification is voted upon, and of course only if the YA Award is ratified.

As I said, I've discussed this with the other members of the WSFS Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee, and all of the members who expressed an opinion agree with my reasoning. Of course, this is still likely to be controversial, and (like the original proposed ruling), I anticipate that it will be appealed, so ultimately, a majority of the members present and voting in Helsinki will decide. As with my original opinion, I think it's sufficiently important that I'm getting this announcement out here now rather than dropping it out of the blue in Helsinki.

Date: 2017-04-23 09:24 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I think you're neglecting the question of when Constitutional amendments go into effect.

From the Constitution:
Section 6.7: Commencement. Any change to the Constitution of WSFS shall take effect at the end of the Worldcon at which such change is ratified (striking the "no additional cost" part of the sentence as irrelevant here).

So, according to your reasoning, the Business Meeting ratifies the YA amendment, with the proviso. The proviso is, of course, not in effect, since it's a part of the amendment, and the amendment doesn't go into effect until after the close of the Worldcon, and therefore the proviso doesn't go into effect until then.

Which means that, during the time of trying to put in a naming amendment, the proviso has still not taken effect, and is not, therefore, able to act as a ratified Constitutional amendment changing the ratification requirements. It does, possibly, mean that a name can be adopted in San Jose without requiring ratification -- but that's irrelevant to the question of greater/lesser change before the Helsinki Business Meeting.


Date: 2017-04-23 10:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
An interesting point that I had not considered before. I'll have to think about it some more. You may be right. I suspect that if I agree with that interpretation (or if the Business Meeting rules it that way), people will complain about me being a "flip-flopper," but it's actually a third alternative different from the first two.

It's quite tricky, though, because we have, as I recall, had ordinary constitutional amendments that get first-year passage that apply to wording ratified that same year, meaning that they're applying to something that technically isn't effective yet. OTOH, I see the distinction between being part of the Constitution (which happens immediately upon ratification) and being effective (end of the Worldcon). On the third hand, I think it would be legal to Reconsider a ratification vote at the same Worldcon, which might not be consistent with the ratified wording being part of the constitution immediately.

There's no one good answer here, I think. No matter what we do, someone is going to be unhappy.

Date: 2017-05-05 05:08 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I am coming late to this discussion, but I wanted to respond to a few things here.

Unfortunately, Kevin, I think Ben is correct. Your understanding is that upon ratification, the amendment is immediately part of the Constitution. That may have been an interpretation that worked before Section 6.7: Commencement was added, but Section 6.7 is a qualification of Section 6.6: Amendment.

Practically speaking, the encoded word "effective" is another way of saying "valid, usable part of the Constitution."

Two votes do NOT amend the constitution. Rather, two votes plus a constitutionally-enforced waiting period changes the constitution.

Ultimately, Section 6.7 appears to be a procedural trick to make changing the constitution a three-year process rather than a two year process.

As for the Reconsideration point you mentioned, I think you are getting at the question: which has precedence, the Constitution or RRoO? Given the fact that RRoO are constitutionally encoded, unless otherwise suspended, Reconsideration is indeed a possibility. RRoO would apply here because a new amendment would not be part of the Constitution, even though it passed with the proper ratification votes.


Date: 2017-05-05 11:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Section 6.7 (or its equivalents) have been part of the Constitution for as long as I can remember, so this has always been the case.

It's not really a three-year "trick," because as I see it, you could (if the meeting allowed it) move an amendment to something that was just ratified (and thus became part of the Constitution) but wasn't yet in effect. If that year's meeting adopted the proposal, it would be up for ratification the following year.

Regarding when a Constitutional amendment takes effect, there's a specific provision in RONR (10th ed, p.579) about this:
It is important to note that, although the time when a bylaw amendment
    takes effect
can be delayed by the assembly, the amendment becomes part of the bylaws immediately upon adoption.

Furthermore, a Constitutional amendment is a specific case of the general class of motions called Amend Something Previously Adopted (section 35), and (p. 296) "A negative vote on these motions can be reconsidered, but not an affirmative one."

I do not agree with your assertion that Section 6.7 overrides this, for the reasons above. The Constitution takes precedence over RONR, customs and usages, and the Standing Rules; however, there's no actual conflict here. Just because the effective date of a piece of the Constitution is in the future does not mean that text is not part of the Constitution.

The Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee is considering proposing an explicit declaration of this as an amendment to the standing rules, but in the absence of anything to change my mind, I conclude that a negative vote on the ratification of a constitutional amendment can be reconsidered, but not a positive one. However, if a constitutional amendment is ratified, it is immediately subject to amendment by the normal process of amending the constitution.

Date: 2017-05-06 01:05 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Well, again, I still think it's debatable what it means by "Any change shall take effect," given that it does not define what that means in the Constitution, nor does it differentiate being "effective" from "going into the bylaws."

If I understand things correctly, the Standing Rules and RRoO are for the governance of the Business Meeting, not for constitutional interpretation. It does not say that a specific legalistic language is the 'official' language of the Constitution (thank goodness), so there does seem to be room for interpretation of the actual relevant text.

I am not a lawyer, though. We do have a handful of lawyers on the YA Committee, so I'll see if I can get them to comment here.


Date: 2017-05-06 01:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You appear to be making a common mistake of assuming that lawyers = parliamentarians. While they may seem superficially similar, they are different skills. I'm not a lawyer, but I am a parliamentarian. Some of our fannish lawyers are also parliamentarians, but being one doesn't necessarily mean you are the other. Or at the very least, you can consider "parliamentary law" to be a specialist area in which most lawyers have no training. I don't have formal training, but I have significant experience. It's only laziness that kept me from going back and completing my certification as a registered parliamentarian. (I completed three of the five segments necessary, then got distracted and never went back; unfortunately, the National Association of Parliamentarians has revamped the process since then and I'd have to start over from square one.)

RONR, as the adopted parliamentary authority, should be relied upon for interpretive guidance in any place where they are not explicitly superseded by standing rule, codified practice (which is why the Resolutions & Rulings of Continuing Effect are so important), and the Constitution, in ascending order of importance. The Constitution says that amendments are "effective" and gives no further guidance. It does not say "Amendments do not become part of the Constitution until..." and therefore, there being no further guidance, nothing in existing practice, and no standing rule on the matter, one should logically look to the adopted parliamentary authority.

Mind you, I personally hope it's not something we have to deal with in practice. Reconsider almost never comes up. In fact (and I may be mis-remembering), the last time I remember someone trying to move it, I ruled the attempt out of order because when I asked the person making it, "Did you vote on the prevailing side when that motion passed at yesterday's meeting?" he said, "I wasn't at yesterday's meeting." (You can only move to Reconsider if you voted on the side that won.) But it's always out there in the parliamentary toolkit, and there are meaningful uses for it.

Date: 2017-05-06 06:28 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Well, I don't really think I am "making a common mistake of assuming that lawyers = parliamentarians."

I am looking at the actual text of the constitution. You, understandably so, are looking at the Business Meeting rules based on how you would rule as Chair.

So I don't think I’m in any way conflating lawyers and parliamentarians. Instead, I am debating an issue of constitutional interpretation, without reference to the Business Meeting rules, which aren’t binding anyways. Plus, we're not in the Business Meeting right now. Nor am I the Chair of the Business Meeting, so I am not beholden to the parliamentary rules, as you are.

While I understand, given your parliamentary experience, that you would look to the parliamentary guides when no further interpretive direction exists, others might prefer to stay close to the Constitution. This is not a criticism. This is me making the point that not everyone interprets the Constitution using the same parliamentary outlook as you, nor do we have to. I appreciate that you have laid out the steps that the Business Meeting chair would need to take to rule on the topic.

To me Reconsideration isn’t even an issue, because it’s part of the Business Meeting rules and can be overruled. My interest is in the constitutional question itself about what “take effect” means in relation to amendment ratification, but only as a topic of stimulating debate. In fact, I prefer that the Constitution be open to interpretation so that it can be a ‘living’ document, flexible to changing analysis.


Date: 2017-05-07 01:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If you think the WSFS Constitution is a document that should not be interpreted in the context of parliamentary law, you are making a mistake.

Date: 2017-05-07 07:07 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Okay. I understand that that is your opinion. Can you explain why you feel that way?

Based on our passed discussions, I think you're getting at how important you feel that parliamentary rules are for running a Business Meeting which allows an international community to have a fair say. And I totally get why you think that. But you've also said to me personally on several occasions that RRoO and the parliamentary laws are NOT the WSFS constitution and are not binding, and should therefore not be considered so. This seems to say that the Constitution alone is the most important document.

Please accept that I have a different opinion rather than calling my opinion a 'mistake.' If you can explain your reasoning more, I can explain mine.

Date: 2017-05-07 07:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There is a hierarchy of rules. From highest to lowest, they are:

Local Law
WSFS Constitution
Standing Rules of WSFS
Customs & Usages of WSFS [as codified in the Resolutions & Rulings of Continuing Effect]
Adopted Parliamentary Authority (Current edition of Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised)

Ignoring local law (which is unlikely to be relevant), when interpreting the Constitution, we start with the Constitution itself. The key phrase is "effective." You have decided that "effective" means "these words are not really part of the Constitution until the effective date." However, the Constitution itself does not have anything that says that. In the absence of any guidance from the document itself, you go looking down the list for guidance on interpretation.

There is nothing in the C&U (R&R) that addresses "effective" or supports or rejects your interpretation that anything that is not yet effective, even if ratified, is not actually part of the Constitution.

The lowest-ranking of the documents on the list is the Adopted Parliamentary Authority. Nothing with a higher rank has anything in it to further define "effective." RONR, however, has multiple things about what "effective" means, and therefore, I conclude that the material in the Parliamentary Authority (cited above) applies, and that a ratified amendment is part of the Constitution from the moment it is ratified, even if it doesn't take effect until later.

Furthermore, since a constitutional amendment is a motion to Amend Something Previously Adopted, it is by definition a motion on which an affirmative vote cannot be reconsidered. None of the higher-ranking documents (including the Constitution) addresses the motion to Reconsider, and therefore even if your interpretation of "effective" is correct, the motion to Reconsider is out of order on procedural grounds. I would further contend that it can't be suspended because by its very nature, it protects the rights of people not present at the meeting. (Specifically, it protects the rights of people who were at the vote to ratify and then left after it passed, secure in the knowledge that the motion can't be Reconsidered.)

This is how I reach my conclusion. Perhaps I misunderstood you. I got the impression that you thought the WSFS Constitution has nothing to do with Parliamentary Law. It does. It's the highest-ranking document in the stack short of any local law to the contrary.

Incidentally, in the past I had this completely wrong. I was sufficiently worried about it that I was counseling people to "spike" the motion to Reconsider if they were worried that they might vote a ratification, leave, and then have their results overturned by a rump of people including someone who strategically voted in favor of ratification. I was wrong. Fortunately, nobody has ever tried it in my experience.

Date: 2017-05-07 10:54 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Kevin, you already said all this :) I've also read the Constitution, where this hierarchy is laid out. I understand your reasoning perfectly well.

I am saying that in reality the hierarchy stops at the Constitution, because everything else can be overridden by a vote of the Business Meeting. Every single thing in Robert's Rules can be overridden if that particularly Business Meeting feels like it. They can choose to throw Robert's Rules out the window or light on fire.

In other words, Parliamentary Law only has anything to do with the Constitution if the Business Meeting decides that they want it to.

Date: 2017-05-07 11:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I consider that a nihilistic argument. It effectively says, "There are no rules at all. The Business Meeting can do anything it wants to, period, end of subject." I guess it could. But that's called a "runaway," and it's one of the disaster scenarios, where we'd probably see the following Worldcon saying, in effect, "Last year's meeting never happened."

Date: 2017-05-07 07:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
A different reason for my concluding that your apparent position that "not yet effective" means "not really part of the Constitution" is that you can construct a scenario with an absurd conclusion in it.

Imagine a Constitutional amendment that includes a provision that it not go into effect until (say) the end of the third Worldcon following its ratification. Such a provision would be legal. (It's somewhat similar to provisions ordering re-ratification at a future Worldcon.) But if "not yet effective" means "not really part of the Constitution," it would be impossible to amend it or reverse it during the intervening three years. You can't amend something that doesn't exist. This is clearly an absurd conclusion.

It's a standard principle of interpretation that if your reasoning ends at an absurd conclusion, either the reasoning rules are wrong or at least one assumption is wrong. To put it another way, if there are two ways of interpreting something and one leads to a clear absurdity, reject it in favor of the non-absurd interpretation.

The interpretation that amendments are part of the constitution from the moment of ratification even if not yet effective means that they're immediately subject to a new amendment, even at the same meeting that ratified the original. Such an amendment would have to go through the normal two-year process, but surely that's more sensible than saying, "You're not allowed to amend it at all because it's not really part of the Constitution yet."

Date: 2017-05-07 08:50 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Regardless of the hierarchy of authority if 6.7 states:

"Section 6.7: Commencement. Any change to the Constitution of WSFS shall take effect at the end of the Worldcon at which such change is ratified."

How can a change be effective before the end of the worldcon at which the change is ratified. Is the "end of the Worldcon" not the last moment of the closing ceremony of the ratifying Worldcon?


Adam Tesh

Date: 2017-05-07 11:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes, the end of the Worldcon is when the convention formally ends at the Closing Ceremony, in my opinion. But the ratification vote generally takes place at the third or forth day (sometimes the final day) of the convention. Without the provision of 6.7, an amendment would take effect the moment it was ratified, leading to the scenario I laid out elsewhere where the rules for a Worldcon changed during that Worldcon.

Date: 2017-05-07 11:26 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I get this part, too.

You explain that I'm engaged in an 'absurdity,' yet you seem to be making a conclusion just because you think it's 'sensible.' But what about the Constitution? As an example, maybe some people think that you shouldn't be able to start fiddling with ratified bits right away. Or, maybe some people think that if you can start fiddling with something right away, the ratified bit should be allowed to be effective right away, too. Like, how is that fair? How come you can fiddle with it before its even allowed to be relevant?

Since Parliamentary Law is not actually binding because the Business Meeting can chuck it out the window, its what's in our Constitution that matters. There's nothing in our Constitution that says you can start amending things right away. There's nothing in our Constitution that says "hey, let's have a bunch of ineffective stuff in the Constitution AND effective stuff, all at the same time, 'cuz that makes sense, am-i-right?" (This is how I imagine the Constitution talks.)

So, ultimately, there is room for debate. I happen to think that such flexibility is a good thing,* so that the Constitution can adapt to changing times and to the various outlooks of our international community. But that's just my opinion. *shrugs*


*so please don't go change the Constitution because I pushed this issue!

Date: 2017-05-08 12:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think that the net effect of an attitude of "only things in the Constitution matter, because the Business Meeting can override everything else at any time" is that everything will have to be explicitly encoded into the Constitution. Every word, every interpretation will have to be spelled out in painstaking detail. Down that path leads the monstrosity that is the California State Constitution.

Date: 2017-05-08 01:37 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Only if you think everything should be encoded. Why is it necessary for things to be encoded? The only reason to encode things like precedents, as far as I can tell, is to constrain the decisions of future Business Meetings and future BM Chairs. Why can't they make their own judgments?


Date: 2017-05-08 02:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Why do we bother to record decisions by judges in courts of law, then? Why can't they just make new judgements of their own. Why should they ever be bound by any precedents? Why not just make up new rules willy-nilly?

Are you really taking the position "There shouldn't be any laws, rules, or precedents"? As I said earlier, it seems a pretty nihilistic stance.

Date: 2017-05-07 07:16 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I will also say that I should not have called 6.7 a parliamentary trick, since as you say, it was clearly not intended to make changing the constitution a 3-year process. I gather it was placed there as a standard feature of parliamentary law.

I mean, I kinda disagree with it being there, because I think that once an amendment is made, it should also be immediately effective. But I also understand how that could immediately derail a Business Meeting and it doesn't give people time to think about the amendment's implications.

I'd have to consider it more and hear more about why it's necessary to keep an amendment from being immediately effective, as I have not seen the arguments about it.

Date: 2017-05-07 11:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Here's a very practical reason for not wanting an amendment to take effect before the end of the Worldcon whose Business Meeting ratified it:

Assume there is a proposal passed last year for Best Whatzit. It's up for ratification this year. The Hugo Awards ceremony is on the third night of the convention. The Business Meeting on the third day of the Worldcon ratifies it. If it was in effect immediately, this year's Worldcon would appear to be required to present the Hugo Award for Best Watzit that same evening. How could you do it?

It seems obvious to me that you don't want to change the rules for the operation of a Worldcon in the middle of that Worldcon. Putting off the effect until the conclusion of the ratifying Worldcon is simply being practical.

Date: 2017-05-07 11:38 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I mean, no one would expect that to happen, even if it was effective immediately. Because that wouldn't be reasonable. Plus, there'd be no way to punish the Worldcon for not presenting it, so it wouldn't matter anyways.

But, it may be that a new amendment going into effect immediately would allow things to move forward in the Business Meeting on a particular issue. So, being effective for use in the Business Meeting might make sense.

I'm really just playing devil's advocate here, though, 'cause I see in some cases it might not be fair to change the rules in the middle of the con.


Date: 2017-05-08 12:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It would be possible to create a Constitutional amendment that took effect immediately by adding a provision "Provided that, notwithstanding any contrary provision in this Constitution, this amendment shall take effect immediately upon its ratification." Constitutional amendments are by definition constitutional, and a specific override on a specific amendment would take precedence over the general rule in 6.7. So if anyone wants to try such a stunt, they're welcome to do so. Such a proposal is not illegal.

Personally, I think such a proposal would be DOA simply on the fairness argument. But being unenforceable isn't a meaningful argument to me. All of our rules are unenforceable save in a few cases that I call Doomsday Scenarios where the only permanent body of WSFS (the WSFS MPC) has to intervene because a Worldcon is threatening to destroy WSFS's intellectual property rights. (The mind reels. I don't ever want to have to go there!)

WSFS depends on people of good will who actually want the organization to have long-term stability participating. If that stops happening, the organization dissolves.

Date: 2017-05-10 01:55 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)

This comment, and parts of the thread that comes from it, seem to be ignoring the fact that there already is a ruling (which you, in fact, made only 15 years ago) that covers the subject.

The Chair ruled that amendments to the Constitution become part of the Constitution at the moment of ratification, although they generally do not take effect until later; therefore, they are subject to amendment as any
other part of the Constitution.

And, since it's covered in our precedents, then there's no need to go back to Robert's.


Date: 2017-05-10 02:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Even better! Unless you're someone who doesn't think precedent matters and anything not in the Constitution is irrelevant because the Business Meeting can just make stuff up as it goes and ignore all other rules.

Thanks for spotting this. I knew that I'd thought about it before, but I didn't remember that I'd made the ruling "from the bench."

Date: 2017-04-23 10:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paul birnbaum (from
"As with my original opinion, I think it's sufficiently important that I'm getting this announcement out here now rather than dropping it out of the blue in Helsinki."

This is a *great* impersonation of James Comey. 😜

Date: 2017-04-23 11:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
[As you know, Bob] the YA field has boomed and changed in the past 10 years. For the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, we used to put the YAs on the list for children's fiction. As the YAs have become more "adult," we felt the adult list was more appropriate. so as of last year, we now have YA nominees on the adult list. The topics some YAs discuss don't fit in well with a children's award, and we did not want to go for a third fiction award.

Date: 2017-04-23 11:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That appears to be an argument involving the substantive underlying proposal, about which I officially have no opinion as presiding officer. This is only about the question: If this proposal passes, is it in order to give it an official name this year, or does it have to go through the two-year constitutional-amendment process, or some other alternative such as Ben alludes to above.

Date: 2017-04-24 12:50 pm (UTC)
drplokta: (Default)
From: [personal profile] drplokta
I still think it's a change of equal size, not a greater change. If no name is chosen, the award will be referred to in some way, even if that's "The Nameless WSFS Award". If a name is adopted, it will be referred to in a different way. So that's a change of the same size. Basically, it's not possible for the award to actually have no name, because we have to be able to refer to it in speech and writing, and so we can't actually decide not to name it at all.

Date: 2017-04-24 01:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Unless someone tries to fill the blank before the ratification vote, that question will never be reached.

Date: 2017-04-25 09:40 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
"The name of the song is called ‘Haddocks' Eyes.’”
“Oh, that's the name of the song, is it?" Alice said, trying to feel interested.
“No, you don't understand,” the Knight said, looking a little vexed. “That's what the name is called. The name really is ‘The Aged Aged Man.’”
“Then I ought to have said ‘That's what the song is called’?” Alice corrected herself.
“No, you oughtn't: that's quite another thing! The song is called ‘Ways And Means’: but that's only what it's called, you know!”
“Well, what is the song, then?” said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered.
“I was coming to that,” the Knight said. “The song really is ‘A-sitting On A Gate’: and the tune's my own invention.”

Date: 2017-04-24 01:08 pm (UTC)
kjn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kjn
A few things to consider here.

First, I believe keeping the procedural decisions as far removed from the substantive decisions as possible. Keep the discussions entirely separate, so debate time for one can't be used to stall the other.

To me, the procedural stuff is really secondary, and I think it doesn't really matter in the long run if the award is properly and formally named for the 2018 Worldcon. What matters is that the name is decided in process that is determined to be fair by as many fans as possible. Your fill-in-the-blank process with the first piece that gets a single majority is automatically selected would play havoc with that, I think (names aren't numbers).

A Swedish-style contra-proposal vote could work, but you'd likely have a hard time explaining how it would run at-meeting. Another way could be to hold an advisory referendum among the Worldcon membership at large (perhaps using the established rules for establishing Hugo finalists). Then the BM can confirm the top proposal, or decide between the top two proposals using a simple majority.

(One procedural interpretation is that the Helsinki BM first ratifies the proposal as-is, then names the award, and when the BM ends the constitutional exception in the second paragraph hits in and confirms the name.)

Date: 2017-04-25 04:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Although I recognize the issues you're seeing with the first-to-get-a-majority filling the blank, remember that you get to vote on each choice separately. So (for example) if you want choice D to win, you have to vote No on A, B, and C. Still, it's likely that while the slower system of vote for one-and-only-one, and if nobody gets a majority, drop the least-popular candidate and vote again until something gets a majority (which is how instant-runoff voting works) would get a result that had the broadest support.

Date: 2017-04-25 09:53 am (UTC)
kjn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kjn
Yeah, I have no idea on which options that Worldcon BM procedures gives in a situation like this, where you have several candidates that are essentially unordered (unlike, say, debate times), and where the choice is also very meaningful (instead of strictly quantitative). The fill-in-the-blank also gives (IMO) far too much power to the chairman, since early candidates have a big advantage.

Running a series of consecutive yes-no votes on the floor could work, but would be relatively time-consuming (note: I do not necessarily view this as an issue in this case; democracy takes time at times). Or one could do an IRV on paper during one day, and then act on the result the next day.

(Or even do an electronic advistory IRV among the membership at large before the con. I believe we already have the infrastructure in place for that.)

Date: 2017-04-25 01:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There is no single procedure. That is, there's no specific rule in WSFS's own constitution or standing rules. It's in the parliamentary rules manual. The Business Meeting can decide how it wants to decide. It only takes a majority vote in such cases. ("Motions Relating to Voting and the Polls" is the heading in Robert's Rules of Order as I recall off the top of my head.)

I think it highly unlikely that the Business Meeting would vote to refer any question to a vote of the entire membership. It's technically possible, but in fact, the Worldcon that they ask to do it for them could refuse to do so, because it would impose additional costs upon them, and even a constitutional amendment can't impose additional costs upon seated Worldcon committees, let alone a non-binding request.

As far as the order of consideration, with a list like this, the order in which the items would be considered in a serial yes-no blank-filling exercise would be the order in which they were proposed, inasmuch as there is no obvious logical order to their consideration as might be the case with debate times or other numbers.

A consecutive yes-no blank-filling vote is not particularly time-consuming. In fact, it's probably faster than any of the other procedures. I'm very familiar with the process. The only think you have to be clear about is to tell people that if they favor one of the later candidates over the earlier ones, they must vote no on the earlier ones; otherwise, we may never reach their candidate.

Date: 2017-04-25 05:34 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Would it be allowed and/or a good idea to have a series of votes among all the nominated names, with the last-place finisher being eliminated in each round until one of the names gets majority support?

--J. Kreitzer

Date: 2017-04-25 07:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That is one of the ways you can do it. You vote among all of the candidates at once, and if nobody has a majority, you drop the least-popular candidate and vote among the remainder again. That's exactly how instant-runoff voting (the Hugo Award system) works; it's just that you do the voting all at once by preferential ballot.

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