Consensus Voting in Decision-making

A Notwestminster 2016 workshop idea from Peter Emerson

Notwestminster workshops ident

In this workshop I’ll demonstrate that binary voting is inaccurate – it is in fact the most inaccurate (and ancient) measure of collective opinion ever invented. Then I’ll show that preferential voting is more inclusive, more consensual, and actually much more accurate.  It is, therefore, much more democratic. Participants will make a collective decision about an issue on the day (probably via a paper ballot then an electronic count) and we’ll talk about the results.

Consensus voting, first invented in 1435, identifies the option with the highest average preference; and an average, of course, involves everybody, not just a majority.  In this methodology – it’s called the Modified Borda Count, MBC – people vote only ‘in favour’ of one or more options, albeit in their order of preference; nobody votes ‘against’ any (body or any)thing.  

In an n-option ballot, then, those concerned cast up to m preferences, {where n >  m > 1) {greater than or equal], and points are awarded to (1st, 2nd … last) preferences cast according to the rule (m, m-1 … 1).  The option with the most points wins.  In effect, then, participants are encouraged to submit a full ballot, i.e., to recognise the validity of all the other options.  And protagonists need lots of high preferences, a few middle ones perhaps, but very few low ones; in other words, they are encouraged to talk to their erstwhile (majoritarian) opponents.

In consensus voting, therefore, the democratic process allows all participants or parties to submit motions; a group of consensors to draw up a (short) list of options; and all participants to influence the outcome.  It is, as I say, inclusive, very accurate and, most importantly, ethno-colour blind.

What you can do next

Have a look at if you’d like more details on consensus voting.

Book your free ticket for Notwestminster 2016

Share and comment on twitter using these tags:

#notwestminster #consensus

or you can Leave a Reply on this page.

Peter EmersonPeter Emerson
The de Borda Institute

Peter Emerson, the child of an Irish Protestant father and an English Catholic mother, describes himself as “a political bastard”. He says: “Politics, after all, is either-or… majoritarian politics that is. A plural democracy, however, should allow for a plurality of ideas, both in debate and on the ballot paper!”

In 1985, outside Belfast City Hall, Paisley shouted “Ulster says NO!” So one week later, Peter and a few friends stood at the same spot, in silence, with a banner: “We have got to say ‘yes’ to something.” 

In other words, preference voting, where we say ‘no’ to nothing, but ‘yes’, albeit in order of preference, to (all) our neighbours’ aspirations. In a 1986 public meeting of over 200, this voting method was put to the test.  Later, in 1990, he suggested the same for Georgia, i.e., before the Abhazian war; [he speaks Russian].  In ’91, with the count now electronic, for Bosnia, again, before the Bosnian war; [some Serbo-Croat].  Most recently in China; [and a little Chinese].

Peter’s latest work is “From Majority Rule to Inclusive Politics”.

Design Challenges for Local DemocracyLocal Democracy Design Challenges

All our 2016 workshops have been created by our participants in response to our Design Challenges for Local Democracy, which were crowdsourced from our Notwestminster network. This workshop is inspired by….

Inclusive democracy: Everyone has the right to participate in local democracy and yet many have barriers placed in their way whether because of age, social class, poor health, impairment, disability or other reasons. How can we ensure that all local democratic activities provide a fair chance for everyone to participate?

Notwestminster 2016 workshops list


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s