[bylaws] Proposal to modify consensus process

Forrest Hill bylaws@cagreens.org
Mon, 31 Jan 2005 20:39:03 -0800

Hi All

I signed up to this list to start a discussion around a proposal i have 
put together. i know it is a little over the top (I always ask for what 
I want with the hope of getting a compromise I can live with. I would 
appreciate your input to this issue...Forrest

PROPOSAL: Using majority rule when consensus is not achieved on business 
and policy decisions

BACKGROUND: The GPCA consensus process has been very successful in 
empowering General Assembly members to actively participate in shaping 
business and policy decisions. When used correctly, the consensus 
process provides a powerful framework for clarifying proposal 
ambiguities, allowing all participates to voice concerns, and for 
modifying proposals through friendly amendments.

In terms of conducting business, the GPCA consensus model is light years 
ahead of typical parliamentary procedures such as Robert’s Rules of Order.

Unfortunately, when consensus on a business or policy item is not 
achieved, the bylaws of the GPCA require a supermajority vote of 
approval by the General Assembly for the item to be adopted. While the 
intent of this practice is to reduce dissention by producing policies 
that all can agree on, it has in actuality created a system of gridlock 
in which good proposals are often held hostage by a minority faction.

The fall back supermajority voting requirement has lead to a number of 
policy problems in the past including long delays on important 
decisions, diluting the effectiveness of proposals to appease small 
blocks of individuals, and exacerbating the exodus of good leaders who 
feel handcuffed by the ineffectiveness of current decision making process.

The use of supermajority voting thresholds also has several 
psychological drawbacks. It allows blocking members to believe their 
decisions are morally correct, ignoring the ethical consequences of 
their decisions. It gives the illusion of unanimity: i.e. members 
perceive falsely that everyone agrees with the group's decision; silence 
by the majority is seen as consent. Finally, it leads to 
self-censorship, with responsible members withhold their dissenting 
views and counter-arguments in order to move the process forward.

The only way to remove the negative consequences of our current 
procedural practices is to use a fall back majority voting system when 
consensus cannot be reached. While this means there will be dissent 
among some of our members over particular decisions, it is important to 
remember that dissent does not mean dissension. Decision making 
practices that actively encourage conflict recognize that people can 
reach an intelligent decision even when they disagree.

For the Green Party to grow and challenge the two major political 
parties it must be able to make timely decisions and encourage the 
growth of leadership within our ranks. The only way to achieve this goal 
is to stop using supermajority voting when there is not consensus on an 
item and move to a system of majority voting to resolve disputes.

PROPOSAL: Decisions of the Green Party of California shall be made at 
General Assemblies of the Green Party of California using a 
consensus-seeking process as outlined in the Bylaws section 5-8.1 (a-c), 
and section 5-8.9 (a – j). When consensus cannot be reached on a 
business or policy item, the presenters of the item shall have the right 
to call for a vote. The item will only be only adopted if it receives 
greater than 50% voting approval from the General Assembly.
The following changes will be made to the GPCA bylaws to accommodate 
this proposal:

Section 5-8.1 d shall be rewritten as “Voting will be on business and 
procedural questions will require the support of 50% + 1 of the General 
Assembly members to pass.”

Section 5-8.9 k (4) shall be rewritten as “A 50% +1 vote is necessary to 
approve a business or policy item.”

Section 5-8.9 k (5 – 6) shall be removed

Section 5-8.9 k (7) shall be rewritten as “Abstentions are not counted 
in calculating the percentage vote.”