Re: Consensus [was balance] - voting
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 27 Feb 2010 12:46:20 -0800 (PST)

On Feb 26, 2010, at 6:26 AM, Brian Tremback wrote:

Once the discussion of an issue develops "sides" that are for and
against, I think voting has the potential to be less divisive than
struggling for consensus. However, the failure of the consensus process
probably begins to occur at the moment of polarization, not later on
when voting is resorted to.

I certainly agree with this. One way to stop polarization and to get new information on an issue is preferential voting. Brainstorm options, state them clearly (hard sometimes), and rank them. Australia uses preferential voting to elect members of their legislative assembly and in some local government elections.

There are several methods. The most familiar is using 5 stars. 5 stars is like very much and 1 star is not my preference. 0 doesn't count. If no vote is registered for one item, it doesn't count.

The advantage of preference voting is that voters are not forced into a yes or no decision. Some people will rank all 5 items at 3 stars, and others rank two a 5 and the rest 2.

The stars for each item are then then added -- very simple on a spreadsheet with one person reading them off and another typing in.

The total for each item is then divided by the number of people voting on it. This is the part it took me some time to understand.

Dividing the total by the number of people voting provides an average ranking, and prevents people from bullet voting -- ranking one item a 5 and leaving the rest blank. Only the people participating in the ranking count.

This is also important when ranking a long list of items when one doesn't know anything about one of them. The people who do know about them can rank the item and only their votes count.

The result of the ranking provides good information that may not come out in discussion. Seeing the numbers in a more nuanced way can be persuasive.

Even more importantly, if this vote is to be decisive, everyone should see their first or second choice chosen. While a majority may give a 5 to Option A, some will give a 4 to Option B. This allows the minority to give 5 stars to Option B and see it ranked first in preference.

The reason to post the totals on a spreadsheet is that you can see where there is strong disagreement with some voting 5 and others 1, with no 3s. Sometimes one option will receive all 2s or 3s. Obviously no one's preferred choice.

I've posted about this before but the list changes and people don't read all the messages. I think this is a very good option, not to replace consensus, but to avoid discussion when it isn't necessary, to inform discussion, and to replace majority voting.

For more information and other systems than the five starts, including a study on which decision-making methods produced the least "dissatisfaction" see:

Sharon Villines
Nothing exists without order. Nothing comes into existence without chaos. Albert Einstein

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