Discussion about approval voting with unrestricted votes

Ongoing discussion on specific properties of voting mechanisms, per @sarahjamielewis request.

Cc @jmsjsph

With only 5 votes, maximum, each vote becomes more valuable to each voter. They are more likely to assign them carefully.
With as many picks as one wants, voter may be less likely to discern between candidates and succumb to preconceived biases.

Citation Needed. There have been thousands if not millions of Approval vote-based committee elections over the last century - there should be ample evidence in the literature available to make this case, if there is a case to be made. There is even precedent (see Hall-of-Fame elections in the paper I linked to above where voters are limited to a maximum of 10 votes - why did they impose that restriction? That’s an interesting question with an answer that may help your case.).

What you are ultimately describing here though is a reliance on form of strategic voting (though slightly different from how it is usually discussed in reference to defacto-2-party systems), and it is generally seen as a flaw if a voting system relies on strategic behavior to ensure consensus/fairness of the results (also somewhat of an inevitability, but these are not discrete categories). I think that critique would carry over to any 5/N or similar scheme under analysis

Why didn’t we follow the intended voting mechanism? This is a failure of governance. Are we going to turn a blind eye to this for the sake of political expediency?

The intent is very much in question, with earlier descriptions being somewhat vague and the ones approaching the election very much siding with the n/N interpretation.

Regardless, when the ballot was announced, and all the through the election period, no one made a comment regarding the structure of the ballot - and there was 97+% voter participation. If there was a failure in governance that brought the integrity of the election into question then you are going to have to explain those facts in context.

As an aside: I don’t think anyone here is against you making your case, but you have to actually make a case and not just intermix valid concerns with allusions to grand conspiracies. Post-hoc dissatisfaction is not a strong signal, and isn’t going to convince people.

Very sharp distinction between well-connected/pre-funded candidates and newcomers that deserve a fairer shot.

If you are looking for a voting system in which candidates who are well known amongst the voting population don’t have an inherent advantage then you can safely ignore everything I’ve said up until this point (and pretty much everything anyone else has said regarding improving diversity) and jump straight to advocating for straight, unadulterated Sortition for the next election.

Sortition would remove any-and-all bias based on connectedness, previous performance, or any other factor. It would make the makeup of the MGRC a function of the makeup of the candidate pool.

Is that a good idea for a grant committee that is charged with making technically sophisticated, large funding decisions? Maybe, I would certainly read the inevitable case-study - and I would be interested in reading advocations for such a structure.


Here’s my case, very simply:

Based on aforementioned blog post, we were tasked 5 of N approval voting (5 members out of the Pool of Candidates):

Based on the aforementioned Helios specifications, The Helios system did, in fact, allow for it 5 of N approval voting.

We, did not follow our own governance protocols despite having the ability to do so and cannot offer any traceability as to why we did not.

This created a result that we are not wholly satisfied with and also a result that is inaccurate and does not follow our own prescribed methodology.

I am having trouble believing that anyone’s personal values can condone this. The right thing to do is pull the alarm, whether or not the fire was caused on purpose. To say there is no fire will burn a hole in our integrity.

“Approval voting for 5 members” is pretty vague terminology. The Zcash Foundation deserves some criticism for that. It could easily be interpreted as "This is an approval vote with 5 winners out of the pool of candidates"or “Each member will vote for at most 5 candidates” or “Each member will have 5 votes”.

Even the prefix of “As with previous polls run by the Foundation,” doesn’t really help clarify given that the Foundation has run both kinds of polls in the past.

I’m not here to defend the initial intention or interpretation, Blog posts are not governance. That very same April blog post also mentioned that the MGRC could decide to pay itself and that this would be a major source of differentiation between the candidates, something that was challenged by members of the community and ultimately determined to be inconsistent with the governing ZIP.

We can’t just point to a blog post or forum post in the past and say “this was how it was supposed to be”.

All that being said, when the Zcash Foundation clarified the ballot in September they could not have been more clear on the structure:

This post was well publicized on the forum. And you appear to have read it at the time, and even gave the post a like. No concerns were raised (at least on that specific point on ballot structure). The ballot went forward unchallenged with extremely high participation. And the results have been explicitly accepted by almost everyone.

There is now a healthy consideration of whether the process and mechanisms can be changed to maximize the overall satisfaction/intent of the community, but it is disingenuous to frame this as something that brings the integrity of the election into account.

(As a meta-point I suggest @moderators breaking off the last 3 posts (starting with 37413) into a new thread to prevent this thread on possible future voting schemes from being derailed by this very specific sub-discussion)


I’d like to have a separate thread to post in for discussing future voting mechanisms and other governance issues. It’s not the other thread because that’s about Diversity. I think we may need a dedicated thread just for this particular discussion on approval voting with unlimited number vs restricted to 5. So basically I’d suggest retitling this thread to reflect the forked discussion here


Agree, the Diversity thread has gotten somewhat mixed up with the approval voting discussion.

Unfortunately if I were to move the rest of the posts into this thread that are in the Diversity thread it would make the three already here out of the correct order. I can either 1. Move them anyway or 2. Post in the diversity thread that voting discussion should be here instead of there and leave the other thread as-is.


Understood, however for sake of keeping the Diversity thread on the topic of Diversity I have moved the Voting conversation to the new thread.

I believe it was @amiller who made the final Helios vote layout and he answered the “why” earlier in this thread.

Perhaps some may think that is too simple of an answer, but I believe him. @jmsjsph Have you considered making a helios poll that performs exactly as you envision, that would be a better layout/format?


Shawn, you might trust Andrew, but he is human. I will simply verify his claim against

  1. the Helios specification:
  1. the Helios application:

Yes, I tried it!

Look, I set up a poll in 60 seconds!!! IT’S POINT AND CLICK Try it for yourself:

This is obviously not a fair or transparent election.

Fair: stick to prescribed voting mechnism
Transparent: if voting mechanism needs to change, release a statement as to why (BEFORE taking it off-the-agenda).

Where is the statement re: changing the voting mechanism? It was done behind closed doors, according to video chatter.

Don’t be overly deferential toadies! Ring the alarm!

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Ring the alarm about what? Someone not knowing about a feature of Helios and so changing the format of the poll to work around a limitation they thought it had? With clear notice to everyone, and in a way that probably didn’t affect the result very much?


The unwieldy comment was about why not use Satisfaction Approval Voting, which is a better way to do multiple winners, but not supported in Helios (though possible with an overcomplicated workaround). This question of choose max N vs choose max 5, yes both are possible, but choose max N is most consistent with Approval Voting.
(Also imo this entire discussion should be moved to the separate thread as it does not pertain to mgrc diversity)


The intent was to use the precedent mechanism - the same mechanism used to elect the ZF board you sit on, right? So you admit to selecting the wrong Voting Mechanism?

5 of N and n of N are dramatically different voting mechanisms. Besides, even if the results were affected very little, we could have had someone from India or Singapore on board, perhaps a community member without any financial ties.

The notice was clear yet the discrepancy flew under the radar (see ‘Timeline’ tab of my Totally Biased MGRC Voter’s Guide)

“Fair” and “Transparent” have specific definitions when it comes to elections.

By any measure the election was transparent. The candidates and voter lists were known, the mechanisms were announced ahead of time, publicly - and discussed in this very forum.

As for fairness. The ballots were counted as they were cast, the ballot structure was known ahead of the election. No candidate was afforded a benefit over any other when it came to announcement or participation.

By your own words you’ve made it clear that you don’t care about the specifics of Approval voting i.e. whether 5/N of n/N is more fair when it comes to representing community interests.

So your issue is not about the fairness of the election (there is ample evidence that n/N is more fair when it comes to multi-winner committee elections, but as I said above, there might be a case to make there).

Let’s be specific here. Your complaint is about process i.e. that the election was not carried out by a publicly known mechanism and that this somehow corrupted the intent of the CAP.

But this argument falls short on 3 critical points:

  1. The process was announced to voters and candidates prior to the election i.e. it was known, transparent and was not challenged until after the results were announced.

  2. The process change arguably resulted in a more fair election i.e. the intent of the CAP was better reflected by a n/N vote v.s. a 5/N vote. A restricted number of votes tends to decrease support for marginal candidates (as voters fear splitting the vote). By doing so it also increases strategic voting, reducing the choice that voters have. And, most critically, by your own argument, this isn’t a factor in your complaint. If the election was run again, it would likely be under under an n/N ballot.

  3. The outcome of the election would not have been significantly impacted without the change. Would 5/N have significantly shifted the makeup of the MGRC? That is a hard case to make when we look at what actually happened. There were 6 candidates who ranged between 50%-70% approval and the rest of the field were well under 41%. To argue that candidates who only managed to attract 40% or lower approval rating in an n/N poll would somehow score higher when the number of votes were restricted just isn’t supported by the evidence.

I don’t think anyone is seriously arguing that future elections should be run under 5/N. Doing so would definitely result in a worse, less fair ballot. And so what is the goal here?

I agree with you that there are specific policy and process improvements to make here:

Future elections should have their specific mechanisms encoded into a ZIP or referenced technical policy document for maximum transparency, and not be solely announced via a blog post or forum post.

There are already discussions regarding moving away from simple approval scoring to something more complex that would aim to increase the community approval of the entire committee.


The process was not the one we intended to implement whether or not we challenged it (besides, it is difficult to challenge authority)

If “n of N” was the process that we intended to implement from the beginning, that discussion was not made public.

Therefore, the MGRC election is NOT ACCOUNTABLE or it is NOT TRANSPARENT, one or the other. (and it likely entrenched insiders, who are defending result despite protocol deviations).

On Consent

For example, if one is abused, and they learn to deal with it, is it still abuse? Of course, it is abuse!!
What if the victim didn’t challenge the perpetrator? What if the abuse wasn’t reported because of reputational or financial risk? Of course, it is still abuse!

Likewise, if this election got mishandled, and we learn to deal with the results, was it still mishandled? Of course, it is! What if someone didn’t challenge the result? What if the result wasn’t challenged because of reputational or financial risk? Of course, it was still mishandled!

Finally, did anyone consent to the process change? If there was consent, it would not be abuse. I didn’t see any public discussion about it…

So, either it was unaccountable or it was not transparent. We would only ignore this for the sake of expediency.

uh oh …looks like you wrote an “R word” on the forum. there’s actually 2 different “R words” you cannot use here lol. have to admit, at first i did a bit of an eye roll at the voting mechanism conspiracy, but now i’m interested enough to reach out to an expert in the field. tbh, i didn’t know the voting mechanism was changed either, until i read a post from (i think) @autotunafish a little before the election. didn’t really think much of it at the time. still not 100% convinced there’s anything wrong here, but now i’m definitely interested in the subject. don’t think i care for approval voting. in the future would definitely prefer to use the same mechanism we used to elect new ZF board members. (i didn’t flag your post BTW)

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I argue that ‘19 choose n’, coupled with an insider heavy ZCAP, entrenches fellow insiders versus ‘19 choose 5’, which would have given a better chance to outsiders.

This is easy for me to imagine, but, if need be, I can create a script that simulates the results of a ‘19 choose 5’ election versus a ‘19 choose n’ election with variable assumptions.

Of course, the results of a ‘19 choose 5’ and a ‘19 choose n’ election would be different. Because the results would be different, that alone should be enough to say that the election is botched (who announces a change to the voting mechanism within 20 days of voting without any discussion with candidates or the voting base? unacceptable! of course, we can hold ourselves to lower standards of governance… I rather not.)

Again, the expediency sought and the immediate move to extend terms makes me wonder whether insiders were prepared to roll out red carpet to certain “major grants” already in the pipeline. If so, the ‘19 choose n’ change could have helped them seal the deal while maintaining the theatre of decentralization that @acityinohio warned us of exactly in his exit letter

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FWIW, I liked the voting method - unrestricted votes removes all strategic voting & that’s important to me.

We also got a rich signal that ranked all candidates. MGRC may wish to involve others and its useful information, for example DC didn’t get elected but is clearly well supported & has volunteered.

I’m happy & feel well represented.


I don’t recall mentioning anything recently about the helios vote besides “do it” and the invite goes to spam sometiimes. You’ll have to reference that one I can’t remember.

FWIW the zip clearly states an expressed desire to build more rigorous voting methods and I thought thats what we’re beginning to do but it seems also that we’re arguing against the outcome?

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going to start this off with this - don’t think i got screwed in anyway, and i’m completely uninterested in a spot on MGRC now, or in the future. also don’t believe results should change


kinda see what james it talking about:

in approval voting your votes aren’t as valuable, so a voter might pick a candidate who’s cool, or just to virtue signal a bit, but didn’t think they would have a shot… problem is, what happens when too many people do the same?
that’s how i think we almost ended up with a few complete unknowns on MGRC (couple were scary close to winning).

when voters can only vote for 5 - their votes will be less sloppy, because said votes are more valuable

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Sure but implying (somewhat forcibly) that the ZCAPs exceeding a 5 vote soft cap and thinking all the votes still all carry the same weight is a bit much I think.

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