Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Popular Ratification

Stirred by comments on the File 770 blog, I've drafted what I think is usable wording for replacing the current system of amending the WSFS Constitution (amendments must be first passed by one Worldcon's Business Meeting, then ratified by the subsequent Worldcon's Business Meeting) with a system I call "Popular Ratification," requiring amendments to be ratified by ballot vote, not by a subsequent Business Meeting.

Instead of being debated for ratification by the subsequent year's Business Meeting, the subsequent Worldcon would be obliged to conduct an election (like they currently do for Site Selection), with all members of that Worldcon who are eligible to cast a site selection ballot eligible to vote. This would be a straight Yes/No ratification vote, conducted by mail and at the convention. If there are more Yes votes than No votes, the amendment is ratified and takes effect at the end of the ratifying Worldcon (or as specified in the amendment).

Unlike Site Selection, there would be no charge to vote, because you wouldn't have to buy an Advance Supporting Membership in Worldcon N+2. The reason I would state the voting eligibility to be "whoever is eligible to cast a Site Selection ballot" is that Worldcons have leeway as to whom to give voting rights, and I don't want to interfere with that.

I am not actually submitting this amendment. I am proposing wording for the benefit of anyone who is interested in proposing it.

Short Title: Popular Ratification

Moved, to modify the method of amending the WSFS Constitution by changing the ratification method from a vote of the subsequent Business Meeting to a vote of all of the members of the subsequent Worldcon, by striking out and adding words as follows:

Section 6.5: Amendment.
6.5.1: The WSFS Constitution may be amended by a motion passed by a simple majority at any Business Meeting but only to the extent that such motion is ratified by a simple majority at the Business Meeting and ratified by a vote of the members of the subsequent Worldcon.

6.5.2: Voting shall be by written ballot cast either by mail, electronically, or at the subsequent Worldcon with tallying as described in Section 6.3. Electronic voting shall be offered only at the discretion of the Worldcon conducting the election.

6.5.3: The subsequent Worldcon Committee shall administer the voting in parallel with the Future Worldcon Selection described in Article 4.

6.5.4: Any member eligible to cast a ballot in the Future Worldcon Selection shall be eligible to vote in the Amendment Ratification Election, except that no additional advance membership fee shall be required to vote in the Amendment Ratification Election.

6.5.5: An amendment shall be ratified if there are more Yes votes than No votes cast on the question of ratification.

6.5.6: The Amendment Ratification Election voting totals shall be announced at the Site Selection Business Meeting, included in the minutes of the Business Meeting at which the results are announced, and included in the distribution of rules by the following year's Worldcon required by Section 2.4, with the by-mail and at-convention votes distinguished.

Further Moved, to require Worldcons to publish the results of any amendment ratification elections conducted at the previous Worldcon, by adding words as follows:

Section 2.4: Distribution of Rules. The current Worldcon Committee shall print copies of the WSFS Constitution, together with an explanation of proposed changes approved but not yet ratified, the results of any Constitutional amendment ratification elections conducted at the previous Worldcon, and copies of the Standing Rules. The Committee shall distribute these documents to all WSFS members at a point between nine and three months prior to the Worldcon, and shall also distribute them to all WSFS members in attendance at the Worldcon upon registration.

Provided that, should this proposal be passed by the 2011 Business Meeting and ratified by the 2012 Business Meeting:

1. This proposal shall first affect the ratification of amendments first passed at the 2013 Business Meeting.

2. Constitutional amendments first passed at the 2012 Business Meeting shall be subject to ratification at the 2013 Business Meeting in the same matter as if this proposal had not been ratified.

Clarifications and Comments

  1. There shall be no voting fee required to vote in a ratification election; however, you must be a member of the Worldcon conducting the ratification election.

  2. If you are otherwise eligible to vote in Worldcon Site Selection, as an attending, supporting, or other member of the Worldcon granted voting rights, you may cast a ballot either by mail, electronically (if e-voting is available) or in person at the ratifying Worldcon.

  3. Members of the Worldcon where an amendment receives first passage may not vote on the ratification of that amendment unless they become members of the subsequent Worldcon.

  4. Only ballots validly marked Yes or No count. Ballots left blank, spoiled, unreadable, or otherwise invalid do not count toward determining the number of votes cast for the purpose of determining how many votes are needed to ratify an amendment.

  5. There is no quorum requirement or minimum number of ballots cast required in a ratification election. Conceivably (but very unlikely), an amendment could be ratified by a vote of 1-0 with no other valid Yes or No ballots cast.

  6. You may cast a blank ballot or a ballot marked with anything other than Yes or No, but such ballots will not count toward the total for the purpose of determining whether a pending amendment is ratified. There is no such thing as "registered abstention" or other method of increasing the total number of non-Yes/No votes to increase the total number of Yes votes required for ratification.

  7. Eligibility to vote is completely parallel to Site Selection, and the makers of this motion expect that ratification elections will be conducted in parallel with Site Selection, with the polls open the same hours and dates as Site Selection, and with the results reported to the same Site Selection Business Meeting as the results of Site Selection.

  8. The current practice of a constitutional amendment's scope being reduced at the ratification stage will no longer exist. Pending constitutional amendments will either be ratified as originally passed or rejected outright.

I'm afraid some of the Comments are redundant, but based on past experience, you have to say things over and over again in different ways as people will try and find as many strange and unexpected interpretations as they possibly can.

The straightforward purpose of this proposal is to give all of the members of the subsequent Worldcon, including the supporting members who are unable to attend the convention, a voice in the amendment ratification process. It does not introduce initiative constitutional amendments. New amendments must continue to be proposed, debated, and voted upon in person at the Worldcon Business Meeting, with attendance limited to only those members of the current Worldcon who are able to attend the meeting. (Thus Supporting members cannot vote on original passage, although existing practice has allowed them to propose new business in writing, and I would expect this practice to continue.)

I personally think that while this would impose additional requirements on Worldcon committees — they'd have to run another election, which means some financial costs to print and distribute ballots and some people point costs to have people administer it — those costs are relatively small, probably only a few hundred dollars because it would piggyback on the existing Site Selection election. Electronic voting would be allowed but not required. (I expect sensible committees would allow e-voting, bu I wouldn't want to mandate it just yet.)

Again, I'm not actually proposing this constitutional amendment, even though I'm inclined to favor it. I'm putting it out for discussion and potential improvement of wording, and for use by any member of the next Worldcon who might decide to take on the Business Meeting and try to convince them to reduce their own influence and authority over the WSFS Constitution. I didn't say it would be easy.

Update, 15 May, 10:45: Based on comment from davidshallcross below, modified the distribution of the results to make it the responsibility of the Worldcon after the one at which the ratification election is held, and to specify that the results be distributed with the WSFS rules.
Tags: business meeting, worldcon, wsfs

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