Parliamentary Procedure In Action

People often scoff at the formal parliamentary rules used at WSFS Business Meetings, and in many cases we could probably get away without being so formal. However, as soon as a real dispute arises, having formal rules pays off very quickly.

Yesterday at Westercon Kevin had to chair a very difficult business meeting. There is a good precis of events by Petrea Mitchell here. The short version is that in site selection the single legal bid managed to annoy the voters so much that they voted for a hoax bid instead. The hoax wasn’t eligible to win, having not filed papers, so by Westercon rules no one had won and the decision was forwarded to the Business Meeting.

I followed the whole thing on Twitter, and was very proud to see how many people were complimenting Kevin on his management of a potentially very fractious meeting. I was also interested to see a positive use of the “Reconsider” motion. This motion is sometimes wheeled out to try to overturn contentious votes later in a meeting after most of the supporters of the winning side have left. This is regarded as a dirty trick, and SMOFdom has occasionally had to be reminded not to use it unless they are prepared to face the wrath of ordinary fans who turned up to the Business Meeting in good faith but did not want to stay after the issue that brought them there had been decided.

In this case, however, Reconsider was exactly the right tool for the job. In order to be selected, a bid needed 75% of the vote. There were four options altogether: the original legal bid from Portland; the hoax bid, Granzella (run by my pals Kevin Roche and Andy Trembley, who were offering to actually run a con as they had so much support); the Utah bid for 2014 who kindly offered to move up a year if this was necessary to find a solution; and a last minute entry from Hawaii. None of them achieved 75% support. Granzella got closest, with an 83-29 vote. Rather than have no convention, one of those 29 people asked to Reconsider Granzella, and on a second vote the required 75% support was achieved.

I have no idea why 75% is needed. Kevin may know.

I feel rather sorry for the Portland people, who must have come to the convention expecting to win, but they do seem to have shot themselves in the foot rather. I quote Kevin:

Hint: When you’re trying to get three-fourths of the people in a room to vote for you, and when you know there’s a pretty good chance that many of them are the people who voted for your opposition back when you only needed a majority and didn’t get it, you are not helping your cause when you say that anyone who voted for your opposition should be ashamed of themselves and start personally insulting the opposition’s leadership.


5 thoughts on “Parliamentary Procedure In Action

  1. Oh good grief – i didn’t realize it was a Portlander who made that “shame” speech – i thought it was some random fan.


    That makes all the more sense why KP made the “only vote for us if you actually think we’re best, not ’cause you like us” speech…

  2. I don’t remember being at any business meeting where the 3/4ths requirement was discussed, but since at that point in the selection failure process the regional rotation can be overridden, it does make sense to require a supermajority. Otherwise a determined majority-size voting bloc could routinely override the rotation by voting “none of the above” in the site selection and their preferred choice at the meeting.

    Now, I’ve never been worried that some local fandom would “seize” Westercon for several years in a row by packing the site selection with locals, but it’s pretty clear that enough people do worry about it to put a lot of bylaws in to prevent it.

    It sure was nice to see that many people at a business meeting. Too bad it was the most interesting program item I attended.

      1. The 3/4 super-majority is, as I recall, an artifact of what the Business Meeting that adopted the current mechanism was willing to tolerate. The system we used this past weekend (the Section 3.16 process) had never actually been used, and I drafted the wording that’s there, so I felt very strongly about making sure it actually worked!

Comments are closed.