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Vote for "Fictional Character"

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Since RONR/11 has eliminated mention (p. 416) of voting for "fictional characters" (in the 10th ed. such a vote was described as an "illegal vote", p. 402) and now mentions only unintelligible, unidentifiable, or ineligible candidates as "illegal votes", what is the proper way to tabulate a write in (a presumed protest) vote for "Wilkins Mcawber", Dickens's clearly fictional character?

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I would consider a vote for him to be a vote for an ineligible candidate because it seems logical that in order to be eligible to hold office you need to be among the living and though Dickens' characters may live within our hearts they don't exist corporeally.

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Unfortunately this opens the gates to writing in Mr. None O.T. Above, another "fictional character".

Mr. Above exists just as (in)corporeally as Mr. Mcawber.

What I am looking for, of course, is the logic of counting an ineligible "candidate" toward the total used to compute the majority threshold, but dismissing "none of the above" as an abstention. Both options appear to me to be indicating a (negative) preference for any of the candidates printed on the ballot.

(I don't think this question belongs in a silliness forum.) In spite of...

I'd suggest the Silliness Forum, but I'm afraid we don't have one. :)

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Guest Edgar

Mr. Above exists just as (in)corporeally as Mr. Mcawber.

The repeated misspelling of poor Mr. Micawber's name has got to stop.

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Unfortunately this opens the gates to writing in Mr. None O.T. Above, another "fictional character".

Mr. Above exists just as (in)corporeally as Mr. Mcawber.

What I am looking for, of course, is the logic of counting an ineligible "candidate" toward the total used to compute the majority threshold, but dismissing "none of the above" as an abstention. Both options appear to me to be indicating a (negative) preference for any of the candidates printed on the ballot.

(I don't think this question belongs in a silliness forum.) In spite of...

Yeah, this all belongs in the silliness department. :)

No change in substance was made by the introduction of "a fictional character" into the 9th edition, and no change was made by its removal from the 11th.

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I guess this would also apply to someone who is deceased - for example, clearly a vote for John Wayne would be an improper vote as there is no way he could accept election.

This also make another question along this line - what about a vote for someone who is unlikely to accept election, just as a celebrity?

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I'd like to think p. 416 ll. 2-5 are clear. If a ballot with the name John Wayne clearly written in is presented, we've satisfied the unintelligible qualification. Now, is the name unidentifiable? A reasonable person would (I believe) assume that, in the absence of any member in good standing by that name, the person indicated by the vote would be the late film star. 2 down, 1 to go. Is John Wayne eligible? Of course, under any other circumstances, I'd defer to the bylaws, but in this case I'd like to think the membership would settle on 'no', what with being dead and all. Thus, an illegal vote, cast but not credited. Now, George Clooney, or Bono, or whoever? Guess we'd have to check and see that their dues are paid up. :)

Edited by David A Foulkes

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Since RONR/11 has eliminated mention (p. 416) of voting for "fictional characters" (in the 10th ed. such a vote was described as an "illegal vote", p. 402) and now mentions only unintelligible, unidentifiable, or ineligible candidates as "illegal votes", what is the proper way to tabulate a write in (a presumed protest) vote for "Wilkins Mcawber", Dickens's clearly fictional character?

It would seem to me that a fictional character is most likely to fall under one or more of the categories you have just listed as illegal votes.

Unfortunately this opens the gates to writing in Mr. None O.T. Above, another "fictional character".

Mr. Above exists just as (in)corporeally as Mr. Mcawber.

What I am looking for, of course, is the logic of counting an ineligible "candidate" toward the total used to compute the majority threshold, but dismissing "none of the above" as an abstention. Both options appear to me to be indicating a (negative) preference for any of the candidates printed on the ballot.

(I don't think this question belongs in a silliness forum.) In spite of...

Whether or not you include fictional characters in the above list doesn't really change anything. If a member is determined to cast an illegal vote, there are plenty of ways to make that happen. For instance, a member could vote for someone who is deceased or who is ineligible under the organization's rules.

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If someone writes "none of the above" on a ballot has he written-in a vote for a fictional person? As a teller what do you do with that ballot?

If he writes in "Wilkins Micawber" instead does that change what you do with the ballot?

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If someone writes "none of the above" on a ballot has he written-in a vote for a fictional person? As a teller what do you do with that ballot?

If he writes in "Wilkins Micawber" instead does that change what you do with the ballot?

Ballots that indicate no preference are treated as abstentions. If a member simply writes "none of the above" on his ballot, he indicates no preference, in just the same way as if he had struck out all of the names on that ballot. Such ballots are treated as abstentions, as explained in Off. Interp. 2006-5.

On the other hand, if any name remains on a ballot without having been struck out, or if any name is written in on a ballot, that ballot is counted as a vote cast (assuming, of course, it is submitted by a person entitled to vote).

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In an election at a recent meeting, one ballot read “Illegal Vote.” How should such a ballot be counted? As an abstention, because it doesn’t indicate a preference for a position or candidate? Or as an illegal vote, either because it indicates a preference that it be counted as such or because its meaning is unclear (in which case the default is to count it as illegal, provided it won’t affect the outcome)?

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Guest Edgar

As an abstention, because it doesn’t indicate a preference for a position or candidate?

Yes.

If he wrote "steak dinner" on the ballot would you treat it as a steak dinner?

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If he wrote "steak dinner" on the ballot would you treat it as a steak dinner?

I'd treat it as a vote for a steak dinner, although it's a little too early in the day for ordering one. :-)

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Not too long ago (maybe six years, ten tops), Dr Seabold wrote an article about some of this. I have the vague feeling that it didn't deal with fictional characters. I wonder how to dig it up.

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The serious point underlying this discussion is that members have a right to have ballot votes accurately recorded in the tellers’ report and in the minutes.

But members who wish to abstain or to cast an illegal vote don’t always know the proper way to express their intentions. A member, for example, who would “rather vote for Micawber than for any of these candidates” may not know that it makes a difference whether he actually writes “Micawber” on his ballot (illegal vote) or simply writes “None of the above” (abstention).

Similarly, a member may explicitly wish to cast an illegal vote (to make it harder for any candidate to win, to prevent a unanimous vote, or for whatever reason) but may not know that writing “Illegal vote” on his ballot is (presumably) the same as abstaining altogether.

Given that a ballot with a misspelled name but clear meaning gets credited according to its meaning, why doesn’t a similar principle govern this latter case, in which the voter clearly intends to cast an illegal vote, even though he did not know that to do so he had to vote for an ineligible or unidentifiable candidate, write illegibly, vote for too many candidates, or fold multiple filled-out ballots together?

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Similarly, a member may explicitly wish to cast an illegal vote (to make it harder for any candidate to win, to prevent a unanimous vote, or for whatever reason) but may not know that writing “Illegal vote” on his ballot is (presumably) the same as abstaining altogether.

Given that a ballot with a misspelled name but clear meaning gets credited according to its meaning, why doesn’t a similar principle govern this latter case, in which the voter clearly intends to cast an illegal vote, even though he did not know that to do so he had to vote for an ineligible or unidentifiable candidate, write illegibly, vote for too many candidates, or fold multiple filled-out ballots together?

The problem lies in assuming that explicitly casting an illegal vote is a valid objective. It seems to me that so far as RONR is concerned, it is not valid or proper to cast a vote in order to, for instance, attempt to stall the election. From the perspective of the text, there are other methods to obtain that objective - such as a motion to Postpone Definitely. Of course, these methods require a majority vote for adoption, but that's sort of the point. If the majority does not wish to postpone the election, then the goal is to elect a candidate now, and the proper method to achieve that is for members to vote for people, not "none of the above."

Illegal votes exist not to provide another option for members, but to recognize that members can make mistakes, and while it is not always possible to credit their votes to a candidate, it's certainly not proper to ignore their vote. The fact that a member could cast an illegal vote in order to attempt to stall an election is a side effect of these rules, not an intentional goal.

Now, the next questions that arise are questions like, "But then why allow votes for fictional characters?" But like with most things, the rules assume good faith on the part of the member. If a member casts a vote for a person, then we assume that the member is attempting to express a valid opinion. Trying to dig further in than that gets into tricky territory. But if a member casts a vote for "None of the above" or the like, then it is obvious that the member is not attempting to express a valid opinion.

I grant that people of reasonable minds may have different opinions on this and feel that members should be able to cast a sort of "protest vote" easily, but as always, the purpose of this forum is to determine what the rules are, not what people feel they should be. If an assembly feels that a vote for "None of the above" shall be treated as an illegal vote, it can adopt a rule on the subject.

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I will add that RONR explicitly prohibits qualifying a vote in any way. The purpose of a vote is to make a decision, not to discuss the matter at hand.

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The problem lies in assuming that explicitly casting an illegal vote is a valid objective. It seems to me that so far as RONR is concerned, it is not valid or proper to cast a vote in order to, for instance, attempt to stall the election. From the perspective of the text, there are other methods to obtain that objective - such as a motion to Postpone Definitely. Of course, these methods require a majority vote for adoption, but that's sort of the point. If the majority does not wish to postpone the election, then the goal is to elect a candidate now, and the proper method to achieve that is for members to vote for people, not "none of the above."

Illegal votes exist not to provide another option for members, but to recognize that members can make mistakes, and while it is not always possible to credit their votes to a candidate, it's certainly not proper to ignore their vote. The fact that a member could cast an illegal vote in order to attempt to stall an election is a side effect of these rules, not an intentional goal.

Now, the next questions that arise are questions like, "But then why allow votes for fictional characters?" But like with most things, the rules assume good faith on the part of the member. If a member casts a vote for a person, then we assume that the member is attempting to express a valid opinion. Trying to dig further in than that gets into tricky territory. But if a member casts a vote for "None of the above" or the like, then it is obvious that the member is not attempting to express a valid opinion.

I grant that people of reasonable minds may have different opinions on this and feel that members should be able to cast a sort of "protest vote" easily, but as always, the purpose of this forum is to determine what the rules are, not what people feel they should be. If an assembly feels that a vote for "None of the above" shall be treated as an illegal vote, it can adopt a rule on the subject.

This goes very high on my list of Memorable Responses Posted to the Forum.

Thank you, Mr. Martin.

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This goes very high on my list of Memorable Responses Posted to the Forum.

I was thinking the same thing, though much less eloquently.

Perhaps an Answers Hall of Fame page (to accompany the FAQ and OI pages,) is needed. Top 20 answers of all time, something like that. Or not.

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Ballots that indicate no preference are treated as abstentions. If a member simply writes "none of the above" on his ballot, he indicates no preference, in just the same way as if he had struck out all of the names on that ballot. Such ballots are treated as abstentions, as explained in Off. Interp. 2006-5.

On the other hand, if any name remains on a ballot without having been struck out, or if any name is written in on a ballot, that ballot is counted as a vote cast (assuming, of course, it is submitted by a person entitled to vote).

So "None of the Above" is an abstention, but "Nona Eau-de-Boeuff" is a vote cast. Got it.

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In my yet to be published (not to mention written) first novel one of the fictional characters is named (you guessed it) "None O. T. Above". I voted for him, a fictional person - that's not an "abstention".

Granted, this approaches the Silly File (it worked for Ulysses) but does point out the murkiness of the illegal vs. abstention distinction.

Seems to me there are but two ways to clear the murk:

1) Anything written on the paper ballot AT ALL is an "illegal vote" (unless for a "real" or possibly real candidate, of course). It is "indicating a preference" (p. 415), even one in opposition to all the real candidates and counts toward the number of votes cast. Or phrasing it as simply possible: Any non-blank or marked ballot is a vote. That would include "all-crossed-off" ballots.

2) Only votes for real (or reasonably legitimate possible) candidates count toward the total votes cast. All others: fiction, crossed-off, whatever, are abstentions. If you aren't serious, you aren't voting.

Take your pick - any other simplifying options?

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... one of the fictional characters is named (you guessed it) "None O. T. Above...

Granted, this approaches the Silly File (it worked for Ulysses) but

Wow, nice work. Took me a moment.

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