AMS meeting Nov. 21- Frustrations

Posted by: | November 22, 2007 | 11 Comments

An excruciatingly long agenda was set for this last meeting before the winter break. After sitting on their laurels for a whole term, the Arts caucus decided to put everything they ever wanted in the AMS into this one meeting and throw it at us like a brick. Items of interest included re-establishing “unofficial” slates (whatever that means), a default role-call vote for all non-procedural motions, and code changes to try and make people submit documents earlier. The first one failed, the second carried, and the others I forget about. Whatever.

I want to spend this post talking about something else though. Now, journalism in general, and blogging in particular is the ultimate form of political passive-aggression. One can critique, bitch, call people out, and watch. One doesn’t have to do anything, or be accountable to anyone – and that’s what makes it fun to write (and presumably to read). Well, dear readers, right now I’m going to commit the tacky act of trying to both do, and blog at the same time.

I haven’t talked much about this on the blog (if at all) but I’ve been chairing an AMS committee for a few months now. This committee was originally envisioned to look at the idea of a randomly selected student’s assembly to supplement the AMS democracy and make it more representative of all students. Its mandate was broadened to include any form of improving political representation and engagement in the AMS democracy, and the committee was accordingly christened “the ad-hoc representation and engagement reform committee”. We’ve been looking at a variety of ideas to improve political representation over the last six months, ranging from changes to elections systems, to council composition, to the creation of new populist bodies like a student’s assembly or wisdom council, to more internal issues like committee reform and executive office hours.

Some of these ideas are pretty substantial, and have the potential for inconclusive philosophical debate. Some would take a fair amount of money and effort to implement. Others, we thought, were fairly straightforward and non-controversial. One such idea was a change in the voting system for AMS executives from First Past the Post (a terrible system) to Condorcet (an empirically better one). The basic idea of Condorcet voting is that it selects a “consensus” candidate to win. That is, the person that most people prefer over most other people will win. If that sounds vague, think of it this way: strategic voting is impossible. Vote splitting is impossible. The candidate that would win against all other candidates in 1-on-1 matchups is declared the winner. Condorcet offers substantial differences from FPTP, and also from the more widely known instant runoff voting, particularly in campaigns with three or more strong candidates.

This voting system is carried out by a ranked ballot (you mark candidates according to preference 1,2,3), and a fairly straightforward counting procedure which bases the winner off of a hierarchy formed by one-on-one matchups. For more information, see the wiki article on the method HERE.

Our committee learned about this system over the course of about four weeks. As soon as members of our committee understood the system, they agreed that it was superior. It was not controversial in our committee discussions, unlike other ideas that had been much more divisive. A few of us tried our hand at writing up the necessary code, since the researcher/archivist who normally would help with this task wasn’t up to it. So here we were, with code all drafted up (albeit a bit hurriedly, but with at least 5 revisions), unanimous approval within our committee, and the honest opinion that this is a really good, if small, change to the AMS democracy. We invited an expert on voting systems to give a presentation to council about the benefits of the Condorcet method. A member of the committee took council through a detailed simulation of how the counting procedure works, covering even unlikely scenarios of concern. We did a little demostration of the method and carried out the procedure on the spot. Then there was debate.

In this debate, several things began to dawn on me.

The quality of this debate was one of the poorest I’ve seen at AMS (though there’s probably been worse – I’ve only been around for less than a year). AMS council is often capable of really insightful, careful, and interesting debate. And when that’s the case, good decisions tend to follow. Here, there was clouded, misguided, and wrongheaded debate – and quite obviously, the results were less than ideal. What really disturbs me is the apparent incapability of most councilors to pay CLOSE attention, understand, and reach a decision on a slightly involved piece of code in the council chambers. It is well acknowledged that the council chambers is more or less the worst place to grasp code, improve wording, and micromanage technicalities. What disturbs me even more though is that given this (well-known) fact, council still doesn’t trust its committees – the working groups of the society – enough to take their advice! So given this mistrust, council needs to truly grasp ideas before they vote on them. Unfortunately, they get paralyzed and confused whenever they’re asked to understand and really concentrate on something a bit involved (like say, a voting system). Then they need only cry ignorance and confusion as a basis for turning that thing away, and before we know it, all technical and structural changes are nearly impossible.

I don’t take a pessimistic view on this: I think that nine out of ten moderately intelligent people have the intellectual wherewithal to listen, understand, and respond to a clear presentation. After all, we’re in university. But people emailing, facebooking, and dreaming when slightly involved material is being presented really doesn’t help. Closed minds don’t help either – and I saw some of that tonight.

In our committee we spent considerable time trying to decide what level of detail would be the most convincing to AMS council in regards to this particular motion. Our initial tendency was to keep it general and hope that council would believe and trust our unanimous judgement as a committee of council. Then we got cold feet and decided it would be a good idea to include the detailed simulations so that each councilor could make a informed, down-to-the-mechanism, decision for him/herself. Both these objectives failed abjectly. Not only did many councilors and an executive seem to distrust our motives (by making ludicrous conjectures about Condorcet favoring certain political stripes), but the greater proportion of councilors had absolutely no grasp of the system we were proposing and its very real benefits – as was made depressingly clear by strings of irrelevant comments, inapplicable criticisms, and illogical questions.

There were a few fair criticisms. Precious few. One was the “non-standard” code language we had chosen, which described a protocol in more mathematical language than usual. A few others regarding the breaking of ties and vote thresholds for candidate re-reimbursement were fair, and certainly worth a few more clauses. The significant one was how such a system would be implemented given the dire reality of an inflexible, expensive, and apparently non-functional computer system the AMS has purchased. Other comments ranged from the old standby of “it would cost to many resources,” at the most benign, to “but it won’t increase voter turnout!!!111” at the most irrelelvant, to “why would we elect the second best person form some random thing with vote-splitting,” and “what is the success rate of this system?” at the most bewildering. (paraphrases).

So, zooming back out again, here’s a generalized question. Given this example, (of a fairly small change that should be a no-brainer, but due to it’s slightly involved technical nature, turns out to be a quagmire of misunderstanding), how do we as s
tudents expect the AMS to function at a level that reflects a degree of intellectualism? Especially when it come to structure and administration changes of a slightly involved nature? AMS has passed, and I hope it will continue to pass initiatives far more over-arching, radical, and serious than this trivial example. The thing is that some cool and necessary good ideas can be explained by expressive words and hand-waving, and some cool and necessary good ideas cannot. They simply require detailed, painstaking, sequential procedures. Unfortunately, most structural reforms fall into the latter category- and this is the category that our current structure handles so very poorly. I’m sure the irony of this catch 22 isn’t lost on you.

That’s my frustration for today. I’ll probably regret it in the morning.


11 Comments so far

  1. Anonymous on November 22, 2007 5:22 pm

    Maayan –

    You’re describing a classic governance problem that is not unique to the AMS. Within every organization (and especially acute within democratic organizations) there are people that have difficulty making decisions for a variety of reasons – some people are just unable to make decisions about anything, some are great with their personal life but don’t like to take responsibility for decisions that affect others, and some are happy to advise but resist making the decision itself.

    In itself it’s not surprising behaviour – there’s no such thing as perfect information and without the experience to know when information is going to be as good as it will get, people don’t feel comfortable making a choice. Add to that that they could be held publicly accountable (be it by the electorate or the Ubyssey) and that discomfort grows even further.

    There are roughly three kinds of substantive motions faced by the AMS, all of which require different degrees of accountability:

    1) Policy statements – these are easy because the AMS bears no responsibility; in fact it is entirely focused on blaming others for the problems of the world.

    2) Very internal matters – this would be something like deciding who chairs a committee. The AMS itself bears full responsibility for the decision, but the assumption is that nobody external to the AMS elite would care, and therefore you won’t be held accountable for the decision.

    3) Constituent matters – these are decisions where the AMS has control over the issue and the decision may actually affect the relationship between students and the student society. The AMS bears full responsibility and there’s a good chance somebody may actually notice and complain if they disagree with the decision.

    While the different decision-making personality types react to each of these matters in different ways, it is frequent that when Council has to make Type 3 decisions there is neither a plurality of people comfortable with making a decision nor unanimity amongst those that are.

    Of course, this issue is compounded even further in a student organization where turnover happens every year, right around the time that people are starting to feel that they understand what’s going on. That’s why strategic planning is so important – to get fundamental debates about *why* an organization exists and *what* it should be doing out of the way so there can be a focus on *how* to implement it.

    Ironically, while it is frustrating for motions to fail (especially when it’s not the first time they have come up) the fact that they keep coming up and from an ever growing segment of Council is a positive sign that one day it will pass.

    On the other hand, as ideas keep popping up but from an ever shrinking segment of Council, it is a sure sign that the idea is on its deathbed (see: bringing back slates).


  2. Peter on November 22, 2007 8:31 pm

    I simply think that you guys went about bringing this to Council in a terrible manner.

    Your basic attitude was:
    1. Here’s a great idea.
    2. Trust us on it.
    3. Agree to it.
    4. Now go do it for us.

    What you should have done:
    1. Here is a problem.
    2. Here is what needs to be done to solve the problem.
    3. Here is a proposed solution to this problem.
    4. Here are the next steps that we’re going to do (this is where you bring in support from the people that will do these steps)
    5. Lets get working on this to make things better.

    Further, by bringing this sort of Election policy change to council without consulting anyone in the AMS except yourselves, well, that was just rude and short-sighted.

    You did not ask the Election Officer (and the Elections Committee that are supposed to be in charge of such code changes) how he/they felt about the change. You did not ask the AMS Link people if it could be implemented. You did not ask constituencies as to what effect this might have on their elections (because AMS code governs all elections). The list goes on.

    Now, should you have brought what you did in October, despite it being only 1/2 done, that would have been fine. A motion to approve in principal would have passed fairly easily and things could get rolling. As it was, you presented this at the last meeting before the elections get underway (not the voting, but the entire process). Frankly, that’s not reasonable.

    Then, you proceeded to trumpet how mathematically sound this system was and how, in theory, it produces a “best” result. However, you had not at all explained or illustrated how this problem arises in the AMS. As we are not the French Republic and people do not vote along party lines, it was a bid hard to make that case. Further you did not have any concrete real-world examples of where this system was implemented and how it worked. You just have some vague “it’s been done” answers to those questions. Is it unreasonable to ask for such answers?

    All in all, the patronizing attitude didn’t help either. While Alex’s math jokes were funny to those that got them, to anyone else it was simply a lost point. Further, continually emphasizing how this was a “no-brainier” certainly didn’t win you any support from people that had reservations. And from the people that would be stuck handling the code changes and dealing with the technical issues. Lets be honest, no one wants a pile of work dumped on them during exams.

    Despite Alex saying that any nerdy computer science kid would do it, etc, etc, its clearly not that simple. To make it that simple further patronized Council and anyone who’s ever been through the process. Again, I sat on the Elections Committee. I know exacly how it wasn’t at all simple and how involved the stupid process actually is with getting student numbers from UBC, setting up an online system, etc. Why the devil do you think we’ve had the piece of crap that is WebVote for so long? Because its great?

    Also, you accuse most of council from not understanding your system and suggestion. That’s fine. But guess what. Do you know who’s role it was to make them understand? Yes, yours. Honestly, I don’t think you did it. Sure, you had a bunch of fans in there that were doing what they could to help, but alas, in a democracy, you need to convince 51% of the people that what you’re doing is a good idea.

    Also, you made the point that Council needs to trust Committees more. I fully agree. However, this does not mean that Council should rubber stamp things that come out of committees. Council needs to understand what such changes mean and what they will do. This is especially so when dealing with (elections) Code.

    Lastly, and I’ve mentioned this, you couldn’t have picked a worse time to bring this to Council. A packed agenda, last meeting before the break (and elections), Arts with their agenda, etc, etc.

    Oh, and I find it rather hypocritical that you’re scoffing and ignoring the Arts caucus motions so blatantly. I mean, it’s rather funny that you marginalize the work of 8 people and then go on to lambast Council for not paying attention to you and not agreeing with you and for being stuck in their ways. Do you see what I’m getting at? You’re guilty of the exact same act that you’re accusing Council of. You have your priorities and ideas and they have theirs. You push yours, they push theirs. But if you’re going to treat them with such disdain, then don’t complain when they do it to you.

    And lets not even talk about the wording of your proposed code changes or about the consequences (ie. reimbursements) that you didn’t address with anything other than “I have some good ideas”.

    Lets face it, the proposal just was not ready last night.

    Again, good idea, bad timing, unfocused/rushed presentation, lack of consultation and failure to check the feasibility. Ugh.

    With that, I end this overly long and unstructured soliloquy.

  3. maayan kreitzman on November 22, 2007 9:25 pm

    Quick reply to you Peter (just the easy stuff):

    -My understanding is that the elections officer is employed to administer elections, not make major decision about the way that they should be run. I don’t see why they would be consulted at the level of policy. The level of implementation is a different story, and one that we should have thought about more carefully. Still, that wouldn’t have been an issue with an in-principle agreement.

    -AMS link was purchased to do what the AMS wants it to do. The fact that it’s dysfunctional is a problem, but should this fact make us stick with an inferior system? I’m not convinced tht it can’t be made to work fairly soon, but I would have been happy with passing this in principle even for next year.

    -I think you’re right that we could have made a better specific case for why this would improve things in the AMS. The fact is that this addresses the very specific problem of vote-splitting and strategic voting – no more. It would improve the results for votes cast in split-vote scenarios and close three and four-way races. That was pretty clear. Nobody from our committee sugested that this was a solution to bigger domcratic problems like voter turn out.

    -I agree that convincing council was our job, and clearly we didn’t do a very good job. My point is that with this type of policy, it seems to be hard to do a good job at being convincing. You say the presentation was rushed, yet we were way overtime. We’ve seen the types of turnout (1) when VFM tried to hold seperate sessions on the voting system they proposed

    -When I sent this idea to Jeff two weeks ago to put on the agenda, I had no idea what else would be on there. I also don’t know why it’s such a “terrible” time.

    -As for lack of consultation, I guess that’s fair, it’s always nice to get more consultation. But this motion came from our committee, was revised through our committee, and was unanimously endorsed by our committee. People that were interested (Blake, Mark Latham) did get included in the conversation. Maybe that’s not ideal process, but it’s not so bad either.

    Also, I’m not scorning the Arts motions. I think some of them are fine. I was sort of annoyed when I wrote this, but the Arts motions (some of which fall into the lucky category of cool ideas that are easy to explain) are not what the post is about. It’s about a more generalized question about understanding and implemeting technical changes.

    Yesteerday I was at one of the graduation cermonies. The president ‘s address had one main point: he said “we should not be afraid of principled decision-making”. I agree.

  4. Anonymous on November 22, 2007 9:55 pm


    I think its really unfortunate that you would bring this into your blog which is usually a really great place to go for (mostly) unbiased, informative reporting. This kind of reporting just makes this your private soapbox and kind of takes away from the blog’s credibility.
    That being said I’m sorry for your frustration. It was certainly a long meeting, I was exasperated as well.
    – Shawn Stewart
    SAC Clubs

  5. maayan kreitzman on November 23, 2007 3:02 am

    Hi Shawn,
    this blog is in no way unbiased. I’m sorry you thought it was to begin with. “the personal is political” and all that.

  6. Fire Hydrant on November 23, 2007 4:04 am

    I didn’t see the presentation. I didn’t need to, as I’d had a sneak peek at the code most of a week in advance. This commentary is independent of how it was presented. A few thoughts:

    I’ve been struggling to come up with an example of “vote-splitting” in AMS elections. The only example I can think of is multiple joke candidates in one race (well, there’s splitting of the serious vote in most races, but the serious side has yet to lose). The term more or less assumes a political spectrum with slates that have staked out parts of the spectrum. We don’t have that.

    Similarly, “strategic voting” assumes a close race with a perceived frontrunner and at least one perceived laggard who’s stealing votes from another non-frontrunner. We don’t have opinion polling, and running vote totals haven’t been leaked in over three years (to my knowledge), so I have no reason to think this could conceivably exist at any non-negligible level. The joke-serious split isn’t likely to inspire strategic voting on either side.

    In the case of the AMS, ranked ballots actually have a fairly serious “flaw”: in the event of a divisive battle (rare without slates, fortunately), many supporters of each candidate would likely rate a joke candidate above the serious opponents — they’d rather have a traffic cone in office than that other guy. And with preferential ballots, there’s a strong possibility that they’d get just that. If I’d been elected as a Fire Hydrant to some exec position, I could serve, resign immediately in hopes that the runner-up would get handed the job before a code vortex swallowed the AMS, or wait and trigger a by-election. At least two of the last four years, and probably all four, I suspect I would have been able to find out who was runner-up, even if that were nominally secret. I would claim that it’s not, though — the election “result” isn’t just the name of the winner. Normally, it’s everyone’s vote totals. Here, it involves arrows at a minimum. I can choose whether to have a by-election based on whether I like the runner-up.

    What benefits does Condorcet have? Instead of the most-liked, we elect the more-preferred or less-despised. First past the post is a horrible system in “real” politics, and this would probably be a great improvement there. I’m not convinced it would actually accomplish anything in the AMS, and I very much doubt that we’d ever be able to demonstrate an improvement. I’m happy to try new systems, though, particularly if we might encourage change out in society, where we need it.

    You came with a not-especially-well-worded piece of code describing a fairly intricate counting process (code should not contain while-loops or ASCII art, in my opinion), at the last possible meeting for it to be implemented in the next election. It wasn’t clear whether it even could be implemented for January, for technical reasons, and it would be irresponsible to commit to doing something we can’t do. There were issues we weren’t even in a position to get into, such as whether we can maintain ballot secrecy and verify that some proposed vote-counting applet gave the right answer. The code just wasn’t ready, and it was too technical to be competently amended by Council even if we wanted to.

    Incidentally, how exactly is it that I can leave 45 minutes into the meeting, attend another function, and come back at the three-hour mark to find you’d barely started talking about the first non-minutes-related motion?


  7. Patrick on November 23, 2007 8:37 am

    wait, code had ascii art and while loops?

    We’re not computer programming here, we’re legislating. Theres a big difference in wording… though now that i think about it, overall there are distinct philosophical similarities.

    That out of the way, I was initially opposed to it, but came around to the idea. I inherently support the principal, its typically more democratic to allow for some form of ranked balloting (depending on the method).

    I would have to look at the wording, and maybe go over it a bit.

    The method I like the best is, drop the lowest candidate and move their preferential votes where they should go until someone has 50+1… of course, this itself leads to problems. Such as, if you havce four candidates, and removing the third lowest would make number one have more than fifty percent, adn removing the lowest would put number two over the top…

    But im getting too into details at this stage. And frankly, Im a policy wonk and sometimes *I* take a while to get stuff like that. I dont question the fact that a lot of council didnt understand the issue or even why it is in theory more democratic. Its shocking, I know, but a lot of people dont actually spend their free time thinking about better forms of governance. Of course, any poli-sci student in the room had better have not had a problem understanding it…

    Personally, I think its well nigh too late to add such language to the next election, much as id like to see it.

    On the issue of the artsies motions, I applaud them for bringing them forward. I dont agree with them all, but I agree with involvement, and bringing these things forward.

    What really bothers me, but sadly doesnt surprise me is the thought that people wont read agenda items and motions even if you give them more than 24 hours to read them. These people are on council. It is their duty as councilors to be seized of the orders of the day and be ready and able to discuss and decide on them.

    I wish I could have been present at this council meeting, but Ive already missed too many days of work for council meetings this year, and i had important things to deal with that night at work.

  8. Rodrigo on November 24, 2007 9:29 pm

    Indeed layers of frustration have emerged from last meeting… One of my concerns have been with time management and the lack of transparency on how agendas are set(who gets to propose motions and why)… So I came back home, wrote a long email voicing my concerns and drafted a potential motion that was already forwarded to the exec. Since I do care about transparency, I will post it here for anyone to take a stab at it:

    Rodrigo Ferrari Nunes
    AMS (GSS/Anthropology)

    Whereas with the exception of motions proposed by the AMS executive, most motions brought to
    council are proposed, moved and seconded by a relatively small proportion of councilors.

    Whereas there have been substantial and concurrent miscommunication in council meetings regarding
    the contents and sometimes the urgency of motions.(1)

    Whereas AMS executive, and council members commit to democratic values of political representation, and governance transparency.

    Be It Resolved That council directs the Code and Policy committee to draft the appropriate code to
    ensure that each constituency represented in council (e.g., VST, GSS, AUS, Commerce, Law, etc) is
    allocated with a limit of motions per council meeting, with flexibility for exceptions approved by the AMS executive or through vote by the council.

    Be It Further Resolved That all items proposed for inclusion in the agenda be posted by councilors
    independently on a widely publicized AMS web forum (e.g., wiki or blog).

    Be it Further Resolved That each item selected for inclusion in the agenda be highlighted by the AMS
    executive arm through the web application as soon as a decision is reached on whether or not each item will make it into the agenda.

    [1](e.g., the motion on housing just passed [nov 21st] could have been passed in the previous meeting,and no feedback was given to the motion even though considerable time was spent in arguments that showed no appreciation for the urgency of passing it; also notable is how, if passed at the time, and if any problems arose afterward, the motion could have been easily amended in the following meeting;
    we spent time pointing out the vanished typo on the text this week, after 2 weeks of delay whereas the VP academic pointed out it that tabling the matter would delay action; it is also important to note that it was predicted then that no substantial feedback would be given on the 21st, when the motion passed untouched; as a result, actions were delayed, and the council’s reluctance to accept it and TRUST the executive’s remarks on its urgency did not serve the best interests of students AT ALL; at least my name goes to the minutes for speaking in favor of passing the motion at the time).

    As an additional critical note, it seems like council meetings are sometimes conceived by some as a stage to show off; where one can laugh and joke while others are trying to speak, and spend time dressing cartoonish avatars on laptops instead of at least pretending to be ‘professional’; there’s also the eventual zealotism (which I actually think is funny) of spending 15 days on a text to point out a typo and claiming that all the other tired volunteer councilors should stay up as long as it takes to get through the agenda packed with things that could be passed before and/or not well thought out ‘slaps on the wrists’ of the exec just for the sake of nagging and being cheeky. At least in between all this confusion, students got together and made the first JAM space trial at the SUB a success. If the council wished to work more cooperatively and objectively, the meetings would be better structured , more functional and less frustrating.


  9. tristan on November 25, 2007 6:50 am

    i hope that a new voting system is implemented for next year at least. it seems that the first time council is presented with something, it doesn’t pass, and then the second time it does.
    the reasons for that depend on the motion.
    alex: i thought your presentation was good.
    maayan: the motion and presentation was fine, and your blog is great. the discussion surrounding condorcet was not, unfortunately, the most incoherent happening of the evening. seemed to me like people were electioneering (very badly).
    let me throw this out there: what about banning the indiscriminate use of personal computers (msn etc) in council?

  10. Matt on November 25, 2007 9:15 am

    “Nobody from our committee sugested that this was a solution to bigger domcratic problems like voter turn out.”
    Indeed. This returns us to the fundamental underlying issue–what problem does a Condorcet system solve? The answer, incidentally, is “none at all.” Further, meeting the Condorcet criterion tends to be an exercise in mediocrity. Given a typical AMS campaign, there is rarely a statistically significant problem of strategic voting, and rarely a problem with the polarizing candidates a Condorcet system seeks to exclude. Ultimately, vote breakdown suggests that there are typically two candidates with a legitimate shot at victory–not a multi-candidate race. Given that, any voting system approaches parity with SMP (“first past the post”).

    In my experience at AMS Elections, there were rarely more than two viable candidates for any given office. A Condorcet system would not defuse vote-splitting tension any better than a simple ranked ballot or a SMP-with-runoff.

    Again, though, the balloting system is not a problem that needs to be addressed. The key concern should be the voter turnout on campus, but that level of navel-gazing and serious commitment to improvement is not likely to come from AMS Council. Instead, we see poor debate on vacuous changes (with, I’ll reiterate Peter’s point, an utter lack of appropriate consultation with Elections Committee officers).

    As to the point of the role of the “Elections Officer” (reflecting what, at best, seems a limited understanding of electoral procedure) being the administration of elections, you must concede that administration includes the setting of policy. Elections Committee members should be selected with some qualification in the field, and the expertise of those individuals should be involved where elections come into play. AMS Council’s unilateral actions in this regard stand as a deep affront to individuals on the Committee. EC generally speaking does not receive the level of support, in terms of access to AMS personnel and of funding, among others, necessary to put together a sound election. We are typically hamstrung by an aloof AMS Council and an indifferent University administration.

    The Elections Committee should be charged with exploring policy changes and talking with concerned students and council members, especially in light of the extremely tight schedule of the election season. That deliberation then passes to Council for approval. Elections deserves no less than notice and opportunity from the outset. AMS Council should consider these suggestions and changes, absolutely. But considering it unilaterally and spontaneously without even so much as including those whose jobs it directly affects is short-sighted and capricious micromanaging.

    “As soon as members of our committee understood the system, they agreed that it was superior.”
    I would suggest, then, that the committee doesn’t understand it as well as professed, or that the other half–understanding elections and voting demographics at UBC–is sorely lacking.

    Improving representation and participation would not be furthered by a Condorcet electoral mechanism. Those goals require more viable candidates and greater participation by the electorate. Making empty changes accomplishes nothing.

    It remains entirely disingenuous to suggest that a Condorcet system would result in any particular improvement. On the contrary, an IRV approach would likely produce better results (but again requires a field of more competitive candidates, which AMS lacks). A 10% threshold would avoid serious issues of vote-splitting by giving voters a second chance when their support of unpopular candidates failed.

    I also don’t know why it’s such a “terrible” time.
    That depends entirely on your timeframe for implementation. I’ll assume that the proposed changes are meant for the 2008-9 elections. If you mean to change elections code with planning already underway for the January elections, that’s beyond terrible timing–it’s untenable.

    In the end, the biggest problem with this proposal, aside from the utter lack of consultation with those individuals who plan, organize, and administer the elections (and accordingly have some much-needed information), is that it constitutes a band-aid on a broken arm. Accordingly, calling it ineffective would be generous.

  11. Bruce on November 26, 2007 4:49 am

    Some postings on this blog and some comments are pretty brutal!

    Anyways, I just wanted to say that it took me several days of thinking about Condorcet to really understand it to the level I do now. Sure the mechanistic details weren’t too difficult, but understanding why it was designed the way it was and deciding how good I though it was took a while. I think it’s hard for one to grasp too much information all at once, and once we do grasp it we still need time to digest it. Then once we are familiar with it it can be hard to understand how others aren’t!

    I agree with others that this wasn’t ready to come to council yet – now we have more time.

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