Method of Voting and Decision Making

How do we decide together? The question is by no means taken for granted, but there is very rich potential for experimental activities in the classroom on various decision-making methods and on the conditions necessary to define the group’s functioning as “democratic”.

of Daniela Martinelli and Francesco Pigozzo

In practice, to reflect and discuss together, there is a crucial but often underestimated aspect. It is the answer to the question: as do you decide together? The question is by no means self-evident and is also very rich in pedagogical potential and didactic activities that can also be correlated with different disciplines of the school program. However, many experiences and comparisons with teachers, classes and schools around Italy have shown us that even where collective deliberation is actually practiced (usually but not systematically), there is a tendency to greatly simplify the deliberation process, to take the vote. Method of course, to implicitly leave out many conditions that are instead necessary for a real experiential understanding of what it means for a group to make collective decisions. The paradoxical result is that the school involuntarily becomes the bearer, under the convincing but superficial patina of “democracy”, of some deeply anti-democratic ideological preconditions: democracy is equal to vote, equal majority (almost always unspecified), Majority equal choice better, more reasonable or whatever convincing, in the sense that it is attractive to the majority to conform when deciding is a race that has winners and losers. In this article, we try to identify in terms of didactic experiments and define what we think are the main variables that are taken into account to educate people to participate in collective considerations.

VOTE: Different situations, methods and results!

Voting is not the only way to decide together, and in any case, there is not just one way to vote. Therefore, it is important that during the entire life cycle of the community of a particular school class, the wide variety of experiences is experienced. Elections and collective decision-making methods, paying attention to the fact that each of them inevitably has both ‘advantages’ and ‘disadvantages’, which depend in a contextual and specific way on the group’s value preferences, its objectives and the specific decision. Here, of course, we take for granted that the methods in question always and in any case provide for the right to participation of each individual in the class: this does not mean that it is useful to encourage a comparison even on the idea that this right should are not taken for granted and that they exist, in today’s social reality and in humanity in general many alternative methods, in which not everyone has the right to participate – without this being first always negative or unjustified. It is up to the discussion in the group to find out what situations or questions may lead to a restriction of the right to vote and to participate.

But with what methods is it important for the class to confront concretely? Let us try to list and define here those that are fundamental to “from within” the institutionalized procedures for public decision-making on various territorial scales. Our invitation, however, is not to describe them to the class in relation to the functioning of the institutions, but to experience them directly:

• Unanimity. Voting method, in which only a decision is made if and when all the participants in the vote (or even all the voters: what can prevent the collective decision if they are not absent) make the same choice. It implies that only one voter is enough to block the whole group. This method is widely used, for example in the European Council or, unequally, the “veto power” is reserved only for certain states, within the UN Security Council.

• Absolute or “simple” majority. It is said to be absolute because it is an election method, after which, if the total number of presenters (or eligible) is known, the number of votes required to win a particular option is also absolutely known. This number is the next integer after half of the total. For example, this is the method of voting for most parliamentary resolutions, including trust in the government and the Italian legal system.

• Relative majority. To win a given option, all it takes is a higher number of votes than all the others: this majority is in fact relative to compete options. This is the voting method by which, for example, the mayor of Italian municipalities with less than 15,000 inhabitants is elected.

• Qualified majority. In this case, the majority criterion is reinforced by specific rules: either by increasing the “absolute” threshold (example: 2/3) or by imposing additional characteristics on the majority formed (example: the majority can not be exclusively male or females are females). For example, many decisions are taken within the Council of the European Union on the basis of the double criterion of a majority, representing at least 55% of the Member States and 65% of the total population of the European Union at the same time.

• Drawing. In this case, no vote is taken, but the winning option is drawn by lot between those previously formulated in the group. The number of options naturally changes the probability of success for all. It is a method historically used primarily for the election (in the etymological sense: “election”) of certain political offices.

• Consent. With this method, a collective decision is made only when all members of the group agree on what to do. A vote is not expected, but an “indefinite negotiation” aimed at achieving the “lowest common denominator” between the positions. This is, for example, the method in force for the operation of intergovernmental conventions, appointed to amend the European Treaties or the Parties’ Conferences on Climate Change at UN level.

A useful exercise may be to decide the following group using different methods on the same topic. By comparing the results, it is found that the choice of method influences the outcome of the decision-making process: this is a fundamental awareness for the citizens, who have to evaluate (or contribute to!) Policy proposals within the framework. to evaluate (or contribute to!) specific (and often complex) electoral laws. Laws for the understanding of which it is essential to know how to mobilize knowledge and skills of mathematical-logical and ethical type.

DEMOCRACY: Necessary conditions

For a group to be able to say that it is making democratic decisions, it is not enough to be familiar with the various methods described above. There are a number of other necessary conditions that it is equally fundamental to bring out through specific experiences and reflections:

· First of all, one must be aware that the founding question for a group is meta-discursive. decide how and on what you decide… in the WHO he decides. That is: are there rules to set the rules? And which ones are more appropriate from time to time? An dofir as can we change our rules again? To make the individual decisions, who and how identifies the problems and formulates the exact question to be answered? Which allows us to reflect on the fact that rules and legality are fundamental, but always the result of power relations, of the balance between different positions, interests, needs, needs. A group is united (and achieves otherwise unattainable goals for its isolated individuals) when it succeeds in making decisions together, which then apply to each other, while unity always implies a price for the “freedom” of their individuals.

· The Vital role of minorities. Some definitions of “majority” change the definition of the consistent “minority” or “minorities”, but with the exception of unanimous or consensus decisions a form of dissent will arise. For collective action, it is so important to make a decision that everyone then respects the decision taken, as it were, to take minority positions seriously, as the bearer of “Some of Change”, from which every human community must always be able to ‘Variability of its historical conditions. But also as a possible antithesis to the ever-possible “majority dictatorship”.

This also refers to thetheImportance of the debate: Making collective decisions in a democratic way is not just about respecting the ideas of others, but also and above all about giving everyone the opportunity to express themselves and to implement them. Therefore, it makes a big difference whether there is time to explain and share the motivations of each individual, which allows, among other things, a substantial and not just formal respect for minorities: those who “lose” have their Reasons, their motivations, which must be known and taken into account. You can experiment by setting up a single voting or decision-making system, which happens when you have to make an immediate decision and when you decide after a broad debate / discussion, with the addition of new information not previously available, with the possibility of mutual explanation Positions (hence the opportunity to interact and change, to take full responsibility for one’s own statements, opinions, choices, etc.).

· The role of zuSymmetry of information and of the circulation of information in general. You can simulate a vote, divided into groups or individually, provide information in an asymmetrical way to different subgroups or individuals, and then recreate the vote by changing the asymmetry and discussing the difference in the result. When information is lacking, poorly distributed, distorted or structurally insecure, there is no real democracy even if the right to participate is formally distributed equally. One can consider “special” information concerning the decision-making choices of the individuals in the group: in which cases can the secrecy of the vote be justified? To what extent can such secrecy change the outcome of a decision?

· Finally, we do not invite you to neglect the problem Legality of the electoral or electoral processIt is given as a mandate (for an election of the class representative, for a collective decision on a specific issue), to conduct an “election campaign” by any means to obtain consent. It then reflects on the “rules” and “limits” that must be placed on “competition” in elections or decision-making processes, so that the goal of consent does not come down to “justification”, i.e. conflict with the good of the community.

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