Global Elections: On the Internet, For the Internet
A Study of the ICANN At-Large Elections
Common Cause and the
Center for Democracy and Technology
4.5 Voting systems
ICANN has made no formal decisions on the system of voting to be
used for the At-Large elections. Some assume that the intention, at
least for the elections of the board members by the At-Large
Council, is to use a system similar to the one in the Names Council
elections of the DNSO board directors. That system was a
winner-take-all system that involved successive run-offs and allowed
a simple majority to select all three board directors. There is very
little, if any, support among those to whom we spoke for using a
winner-take-all voting system in the At-Large elections.
The ICANN bylaws now provide for staggered elections. According
to the current plan, the At-Large membership would elect six of the
18 total At-Large Council members in the first round of elections.
These initial elections would be reviewed by the ICANN Board for
their fairness and effectiveness before subsequent elections would
proceed. This notion of staggered elections also was widely
criticized in the course of our study.
Option 9: Proportional
Representation Voting Systems
For Council elections or board elections, or both, ICANN could
employ a voting scheme that yields electoral outcomes in which the
proportion of the total seats in the elected body held by
representatives of a given constituency approximates that
constituency's proportion of the total voting electorate.
Cumulative, limited, and choice voting (also known as single
transferable vote) are three such systems.
Compared to winner-take-all schemes in which 50 percent (plus
one) of the electorate chooses all or nearly all the elected
representatives, proportional representation voting systems increase
the number of voters whose ballots help elect victorious candidates.
Under such systems, a broader and more diverse range of voices would
be represented in ICANN's policy-making bodies, and the risk of
capture would be reduced as the seats would be spread out among
different constituency groups.
Some people have expressed concerns, however, that proportional
representation voting schemes facilitate the election of
representatives from constituency groups with viewpoints that are
held by rather small percentages of the electorate. Proportional
representation voting schemes may lead to the election of board
directors or council members with marginally-held views that may be
aimed at moving ICANN outside its narrow policy scope.
[After discussing pros and cons of PR above,
the report concludes the following:]
We share the basic values behind proportional representation
voting systems - increased opportunities for minority voting blocks
to win representation and a diffusion of power among different
constituencies. We recognize that the direct elections which we
advocate will result in a total of only nine seats up for election.
This limits the opportunities and potential efficacy of proportional
representation voting systems, but ICANN should nonetheless work to
incorporate some form of proportional representation voting in
implementing direct elections.
5. Recommended Principles for Moving
Common Cause and CDT urge ICANN to address the criticisms that
have been made of the proposed procedures for electing the At-Large
board members. We urge ICANN to adopt the following general
5-3. The electorate should directly elect the At-Large board
directors. Having an At-Large Council as a mediating body in the
election of At-Large board seats diminishes both the reality and
appearance of an open, inclusive, representative and democratic
An intervening council will not prevent "capture" of these board
seats, but it will diminish accountability. In fact, it could make
capture by an interest group easier because winning only half the
council seats would give that interest the power to select all nine
board seats. It could also lead to a disengaged membership that
fails to "watchdog" the board, because the very limited and indirect
role of selecting electors will not inspire active
5-5. ICANN should use some form of a
proportional-representation voting scheme for its At-Large
elections. A proportional representation voting scheme, as opposed
to a winner-take-all majority vote system, will disaggregate power,
making it more difficult for one interest to capture the At-Large
board seats. It will also enhance legitimacy and representation by
providing real opportunities for representation to individuals and
groups who do not hold majority