[council] Abstentions

Adrian Kinderis adrian at ausregistry.com.au
Fri Sep 25 12:13:23 UTC 2009

Thanks for this Philip.

Interesting that his example could be used to parallel the Travel Funding vote. Those directly receiving the benefit, in his example, should have abstained.

Once again, se me at the bar to complain. 1 drink per legitimate complaint (I have given you reasons for many).

Adrian Kinderis

From: owner-council at gnso.icann.org [mailto:owner-council at gnso.icann.org] On Behalf Of Philip Sheppard
Sent: Thursday, 24 September 2009 11:37 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 Thoughts
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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