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 Excerpts from

ICANN's Global Elections: On the Internet, For the Internet

A Study of the ICANN At-Large Elections
by 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 Forward

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 principles:

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 election.

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 participation.

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 viewpoints.

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