[council] Abstentions

Gomes, Chuck cgomes at verisign.com
Thu Sep 24 12:46:14 UTC 2009

Note that Steve cites examples for both counting abstentions as votes
and not counting them.  I responded to Steve's message on the OSC list
yesterday and planned to share his points in today's call.  I will
forward my response to him on the Council list.


	From: owner-council at gnso.icann.org
[mailto:owner-council at gnso.icann.org] On Behalf Of Philip Sheppard
	Sent: Thursday, September 24, 2009 3:37 AM
	To: 'Council GNSO'
	Subject: [council] Abstentions
	Please note some wise words from Steve M.sent to the OSC list.


	From: owner-gnso-osc at icann.org [mailto:owner-gnso-osc at icann.org]
On Behalf Of Metalitz, Steven
	Sent: Thursday, September 24, 2009 12:11 AM
	To: Gomes, Chuck; gnso-osc at icann.org
	Subject: RE: [gnso-osc] FW: Further Council Ops Procedures
	I am afraid we are trying to square the circle on this
abstention issue.  
	Abstentions may occur for a lot of reasons.  But if one occurs
in order to avoid a conflict of interest problem, then we cannot treat
it as a functional  "no" vote -- which we do if we insist that the
denominator in calculating a voting threshold must always be the total
number of people seated in the House or council. 
	Let's assume that on a motion before the council, a councillor's
financial interests will be directly benefited by defeat of the motion.
The councillor should refrain from voting on (or even from participating
in the discussion of) the motion.  Let's assume the council consists of
10 people and that a majority vote is needed for the motion. 
	However, if the councillor abstains for this reason, then if 5
vote for and 4 against, the motion fails. Abstention will have achieved
exactly the result that a conflict of interest policy should avoid at
all costs -- the action of the councillor has directly benefitted his
financial interest.    
	If the councillor is able to truly abstain, so that his presence
is not counted for purposes of achieving the voting threshold, then the
vote (5-4) reflects the views of the majority of council members who
were allowed (in accordance with conflict of interest policy) to vote,
and should be enough to carry the motion. 
	The same scenario could play out almost no matter what is the
voting threshold required or the number of eligible voters.    
	I emphasize that many abstentions will not be for conflict
reasons -- quite commonly, it will be because the
constituency/stakeholder group could not reach a position on the issue,
or an issue arises suddenly and the councillor has decided that she will
not vote absent instructions from her constituency/SG.     There is less
of a problem counting the abstention for purposes of a voting threshold
in this case -- though it still may not be a good idea.  But there would
need to be an exception to this general rule for situations in which an
abstention is dictated by conflict of interest rules.  

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