General Resolution: Change the resolution process

Time Line

Proposal and amendment 2021-11-20
Discussion Period: 2021-11-25
Voting period:

Proposer

Russ Allbery [rra@debian.org] [text of proposal] [amendment]

Seconds

  1. Timo Röhling [roehling@debian.org] [mail]
  2. Philip Hands [philh@debian.org] [mail]
  3. Sam Hartman [hartmans@debian.org] [mail]
  4. Pierre-Elliott Bécue [peb@debian.org] [mail]
  5. Holger Levsen [holger@debian.org] [mail]
  6. Gunnar Wolf [gwolf@debian.org] [mail]
  7. Sean Whitton [spwhitton@debian.org] [mail]

Text

Choice 1

Rationale
=========

We have uncovered several problems with the current constitutional
mechanism for preparing a Technical Committee resolution or General
Resolution for vote:

* The timing of calling for a vote is discretionary and could be used
  strategically to cut off discussion while others were preparing
  additional ballot options.
* The original proposer of a GR has special control over the timing of the
  vote, which could be used strategically to the disadvantage of other
  ballot options.
* The description of the process for adding and managing additional ballot
  options is difficult to understand.
* The current default choice of "further discussion" for a General
  Resolution has implications beyond rejecting the other options that may,
  contrary to its intent, discourage people Developers ranking it above
  options they wish to reject.

The actual or potential implications of these problems caused conflict in
the Technical Committee systemd vote and in GRs 2019-002 and 2021-002,
which made it harder for the project to reach a fair and widely-respected
result.

This constitutional change attempts to address those issues by

* separating the Technical Committee process from the General Resolution
  process since they have different needs;
* requiring (passive) consensus among TC members that a resolution is
  ready to proceed to a vote;
* setting a maximum discussion period for a TC resolution and then
  triggering a vote;
* setting a maximum discussion period for a GR so that the timing of the
  vote is predictable;
* extending the GR discussion period automatically if the ballot changes;
* modifying the GR process to treat all ballot options equally, with a
  clearer process for addition, withdrawal, and amendment;
* changing the default option for a GR to "none of the above"; and
* clarifying the discretion extended to the Project Secretary.

It also corrects a technical flaw that left the outcome of the vote for
Technical Committee Chair undefined in the event of a tie, and clarifies
responsibilities should the Technical Committee put forward a General
Resolution under point 4.2.1.

Effect of the General Resolution
================================

The Debian Developers, by way of General Resolution, amend the Debian
constitution under point 4.1.2 as follows.  This General Resolution
requires a 3:1 majority.

Section 4.2.4
-------------

Strike the sentence "The minimum discussion period is 2 weeks, but may be
varied by up to 1 week by the Project Leader."  (A modified version of
this provision is added to section A below.)  Add to the end of this
point:

    The default option is "None of the above."

Section 4.2.5
-------------

Replace "amendments" with "ballot options."

Section 5.1.5
-------------

Replace in its entirety with:

    Propose General Resolutions and ballot options for General
    Resolutions.  When proposed by the Project Leader, sponsors for the
    General Resolution or ballot option are not required; see §4.2.1.

Section 5.2.7
-------------

Replace "section §A.6" with "section §A.5".

Section 6.1.7
-------------

Replace "section §A.6" with "section §A.5".

Add to the end of this point:

    There is no casting vote. If there are multiple options with no
    defeats in the Schwartz set at the end of A.5.8, the winner will be
    randomly chosen from those options, via a mechanism chosen by the
    Project Secretary.

Section 6.3
-----------

Replace 6.3.1 in its entirety with:

    1. Resolution process.

       The Technical Committee uses the following process to prepare a
       resolution for vote:

       1. Any member of the Technical Committee may propose a resolution.
          This creates an initial two-option ballot, the other option
          being the default option of "None of the above". The proposer
          of the resolution becomes the proposer of the ballot option.

       2. Any member of the Technical Committee may propose additional
          ballot options or modify or withdraw a ballot option they
          proposed.

       3. If all ballot options except the default option are withdrawn,
          the process is canceled.

       4. Any member of the Technical Committee may call for a vote on the
          ballot as it currently stands. This vote begins immediately, but
          if any other member of the Technical Committee objects to
          calling for a vote before the vote completes, the vote is
          canceled and has no effect.

       5. Two weeks after the original proposal the ballot is closed to
          any changes and voting starts automatically. This vote cannot be
          canceled.

       6. If a vote is canceled under point 6.3.1.4 later than 13 days
          after the initial proposed resolution, the vote specified in
          point 6.3.1.5 instead starts 24 hours after the time of
          cancellation. During that 24 hour period, no one may call for a
          vote.

Add a new paragraph to the start of 6.3.2 following "Details regarding
voting":

       Votes are decided by the vote counting mechanism described in
       section §A.5. The voting period lasts for one week or until the
       outcome is no longer in doubt assuming no members change their
       votes, whichever is shorter. Members may change their votes until
       the voting period ends. There is a quorum of two. The Chair has a
       casting vote. The default option is "None of the above".

Strike "The Chair has a casting vote." from the existing text and make the
remaining text a separate, second paragraph.

In 6.3.3, replace "amendments" with "ballot options."

Add, at the end of section 6.3, the following new point:

    7. Proposing a general resolution.

       When the Technical Committee proposes a general resolution or a
       ballot option in a general resolution to the project under point
       4.2.1, it may delegate the authority to withdraw, amend, or make
       minor changes to the ballot option to one of its members. If it
       does not do so, these decisions must be made by resolution of the
       Technical Committee.

Section A
---------

Replace A.0 through A.4 in their entirety with:

    A.0. Proposal

    1. The formal procedure begins when a draft resolution is proposed and
       sponsored, as required. A draft resolution must include the text of
       that resolution and a short single-line summary suitable for
       labeling the ballot choice.

    2. This draft resolution becomes a ballot option in an initial
       two-option ballot, the other option being the default option, and
       the proposer of the draft resolution becomes the proposer of that
       ballot option.

    A.1. Discussion and amendment

    1. The discussion period starts when a draft resolution is proposed
       and sponsored. The minimum discussion period is 2 weeks. The
       maximum discussion period is 3 weeks.

    2. A new ballot option may be proposed and sponsored according to the
       requirements for a new resolution.

    3. The proposer of a ballot option may amend that option provided that
       none of the sponsors of that ballot option at the time the
       amendment is proposed disagree with that change within 24 hours. If
       any of them do disagree, the ballot option is left unchanged.

    4. The addition of a ballot option or the change via an amendment of a
       ballot option changes the end of the discussion period to be one
       week from when that action was done, unless that would make the
       total discussion period shorter than the minimum discussion period
       or longer than the maximum discussion period. In the latter case,
       the length of the discussion period is instead set to the maximum
       discussion period.

    5. The proposer of a ballot option may make minor changes to that
       option (for example, typographical fixes, corrections of
       inconsistencies, or other changes which do not alter the meaning),
       providing no Developer objects within 24 hours. In this case the
       length of the discussion period is not changed. If a Developer does
       object, the change must instead be made via amendment under point
       A.1.3.

    6. The Project Leader may, at any point in the process, increase or
       decrease the minimum and maximum discussion period by up to 1 week
       from their original values in point A.1.1, except that they may not
       do so in a way that causes the discussion period to end within 48
       hours of when this change is made. The length of the discussion
       period is then recalculated as if the new minimum and maximum
       lengths had been in place during all previous ballot changes under
       points A.1.1 and A.1.4.

    7. The default option has no proposer or sponsors, and cannot be
       amended or withdrawn.

    A.2. Withdrawing ballot options

    1. The proposer of a ballot option may withdraw. If they do, new
       proposers may come forward to keep the ballot option alive, in
       which case the first person to do so becomes the new proposer and
       any others become sponsors if they aren't sponsors already. Any new
       proposer or sponsors must meet the requirements for proposing or
       sponsoring a new resolution.

    2. A sponsor of a ballot option may withdraw.

    3. If the withdrawal of the proposer and/or sponsors means that a
       ballot option has no proposer or not enough sponsors to meet the
       requirements for a new resolution, and 24 hours pass without this
       being remedied by another proposer and/or sponsors stepping
       forward, it is removed from the draft ballot.  This does not change
       the length of the discussion period.

    4. If all ballot options except the default option are withdrawn, the
       resolution is canceled and will not be voted on.

    A.3. Calling for a vote

    1. After the discussion period has ended, the Project Secretary will
       publish the ballot and call for a vote. The Project Secretary may
       do this immediately following the end of the discussion period and
       must do so within five days of the end of the discussion period.

    2. The Project Secretary determines the order of ballot options. At
       their discretion they may reword the single-line summaries for
       clarity.

    3. Minor changes to ballot options under point A.1.5 may not be made
       after or within 24 hours of the end of the discussion period unless
       the Project Secretary agrees the change does not alter the meaning
       of the ballot option and (if it would do so) warrants delaying the
       vote. The Project Secretary will allow 24 hours for objections
       after any such change before issuing the call for a vote.

    4. No new ballot options may be proposed, no ballot options may be
       amended, and no proposers or sponsors may withdraw within 24 hours
       of the end of the discussion period unless this action successfully
       extends the discussion period under point A.1.4 by at least 24
       additional hours.

    5. Actions to preserve the existing ballot may be taken within 24
       hours of the end of the discussion period, namely a sponsor
       objecting to an amendment under point A.1.3, a Developer objecting
       to a minor change under point A.1.5, stepping forward as the
       proposer for an existing ballot option whose original proposer has
       withdrawn it under point A.2.1, or sponsoring an existing ballot
       option that has fewer than the required number of sponsors because
       of the withdrawal of a sponsor under point A.2.2.

    6. The Project Secretary may make an exception to point A.3.4 and
       accept changes to the ballot after they are no longer allowed,
       provided that this is done at least 24 hours prior to the issuance
       of a call for a vote. All other requirements for making a change to
       the ballot must still be met. This is expected to be rare and
       should only be done if the Project Secretary believes it would be
       harmful to the best interests of the project for the change to not
       be made.

    A.4. Voting procedure

    1. Options which do not have an explicit supermajority requirement
       have a 1:1 majority requirement. The default option does not have
       any supermajority requirements.

    2. The votes are counted according to the rules in section §A.5.

    3. In cases of doubt the Project Secretary shall decide on matters of
       procedure.

Strike section A.5 in its entirety.

Rename section A.6 to A.5.

Replace the paragraph at the end of section A.6 (now A.5) with:

    When the vote counting mechanism of the Standard Resolution Procedure
    is to be used, the text which refers to it must specify who has a
    casting vote, the quorum, the default option, and any supermajority
    requirement.  The default option must not have any supermajority
    requirements.

Proposal B Proposer

Wouter Verhelst [wouter@debian.org] [text of proposal] [amendment] [amendment]

Proposal B Seconds

  1. Holger Levsen [holger@debian.org] [mail]
  2. Pierre-Elliott Bécue [peb@debian.org] [mail]
  3. Mathias Behrle [mbehrle@debian.org] [mail]
  4. Kyle Robbertze [paddatrapper@debian.org] [mail]
  5. Mattia Rizzolo [mattia@debian.org] [mail]
  6. Louis-Philippe Véronneau [pollo@debian.org] [mail]

Proposal B

Choice 2

Rationale
=========

Much of the rationale of Russ' proposal still applies, and indeed this
amendment builds on it. However, the way the timing works is different,
on purpose.

Our voting system, which neither proposal modifies, as a condorcet
voting mechanism, does not suffer directly from too many options on the
ballot. While it is desirable to make sure the number of options on the
ballot is not extremely high for reasons of practicality and voter
fatigue, it is nonetheless of crucial importance that all the *relevant*
options are represented on the ballot, so that the vote outcome is not
questioned for the mere fact that a particular option was not
represented on the ballot. Making this possible requires that there is
sufficient time to discuss all relevant opinions.

Russ' proposal introduces a hard limit of 3 weeks to any and all ballot
processes, assuming that that will almost always be enough, and relying
on withdrawing and restarting the voting process in extreme cases where
it turns out more time is needed; in Russ' proposal, doing so would
increase the discussion time by another two weeks at least (or one if
the DPL reduces the discussion time).

In controversial votes, I believe it is least likely for all ballot
proposers to be willing to use this escape hatch of withdrawing the vote
and restarting the process; and at the same time, controversial votes
are the most likely to need a lot of discussion to build a correct
ballot, which implies they would be most likely to need some extra time
-- though not necessarily two more weeks -- for the ballot to be
complete.

At the same time, I am not insensitive to arguments of predictability,
diminishing returns, and process abuse which seem to be the main
arguments in favour of a hard time limit at three weeks.

For this reason, my proposal does not introduce a hard limit, and
*always* makes it theoretically possible to increase the discussion
time, but does so in a way that extending the discussion time becomes
harder and harder as time goes on. I believe it is better for the
constitution to allow a group of people to have a short amount of extra
time so they can finish their proposed ballot option, than to require
the full discussion period to be restarted through the withdrawal and
restart escape hatch. At the same time, this escape hatch is not
removed, although I expect it to be less likely to be used.

The proposed mechanism sets the initial discussion time to 1 week, but
allows it to be extended reasonably easily to 2 or 3 weeks, makes it
somewhat harder to reach 4 weeks, and makes it highly unlikely (but
still possible) to go beyond that.

Text of the GR
==============

The Debian Developers, by way of General Resolution, amend the Debian
constitution under point 4.1.2 as follows. This General Resolution
requires a 3:1 majority.

Sections 4 through 7
--------------------

Copy from Russ' proposal, replacing cross-references to §A.5 by §A.6,
where relevant.

Section A
---------

Replace section A as per Russ' proposal, with the following changes:

A.1.1. Replace the sentence "The minimum discussion period is 2 weeks."
       by "The initial discussion period is 1 week." Strike the sentence
       "The maximum discussion period is 3 weeks".

A.1.4. Strike in its entirety

A.1.5. Rename to A.1.4, and strike the sentence "In this case the length
       of the discussion period is not changed".

A.1.6. Strike in its entirety

A.1.7. Rename to A.1.5.

After A.2, insert:

A.3. Extending the discussion time.

1. When less than 48 hours remain in the discussion time, any Developer
   may propose an extension to the discussion time, subject to the
   limitations of §A.3.3. These extensions may be sponsored according to
   the same rules that apply to new ballot options.

2. As soon as a time extension has received the required number of
   sponsors, these sponsorships are locked in and cannot be withdrawn,
   and the time extension is active.

3. When a time extension has received the required number of sponsors,
   its proposers and sponsors may no longer propose or sponsor any
   further time extension for the same ballot, and any further sponsors
   for the same extension proposal will be ignored for the purpose of
   this paragraph. In case of doubt, the Project Secretary decides how
   the order of sponsorships is determined.

4. The first two successful time extensions will extend the discussion
   time by one week; any further time extensions will extend the
   discussion time by 72 hours.

5. Once the discussion time is longer than 4 weeks, any Developer may
   object to further time extensions. Developers who have previously
   proposed or sponsored a time extension may object as well. If the
   number of objections outnumber the proposer and their sponsors,
   including sponsors who will be ignored as per §A.3.3, the time
   extension will not be active and the discussion time does not change.

A.3. Rename to A.4.

A.3.6 (now A.4.6): replace 'A.3.4' by 'A.4.4'.

A.4. Rename to A.5.

A.4.2 (now A.5.2): replace '§A.5' by '§A.6'.

A.5. Rename (back) to A.6.

Debian Project Secretary