|A subpage for the AARoads project
Approval voting is a form of polling that can be used as a tool for gauging the desires of the community when the outcome of a simple discussion is ambiguous, or there are multiple potential outcomes that each have a base of support.
When to use approval voting
In general, the easiest and best way to make a decision about a policy or editorial decision is to simply come to a consensus on the matter. You should always try having a discussion first, and if everyone comes to an agreement reasonably quickly, then that's obviously what should be done.
However, reaching a decision is sometimes a more complicated process. Sometimes there will be a vocal faction who want to do things a different way, but it's hard to figure out whether they are just a vocal minority. Sometimes a discussion consist of people mostly throwing around and refining a few different ideas, but not really committing to any of them. Sometimes the discussion is just messy and it's hard to see a through-line that can be turned into an actionable policy. An approval vote can help with all of these.
An approval vote should only be used if a discussion has already been held for an extended period, and no obvious consensus results. Approval votes will be used primarily on talk pages and Interchange discussions. Regular processes, like deletion and user rights requests, will have their own norms tailored to the purpose they serve, which may or may not involve an approval vote.
Running an approval vote
Setting up an approval vote is fairly simple.
Statements of principle
The first step is the most difficult: deciding what to hold the vote on. Read through the discussion and summarize it into statements of principle. All of these statements should be mutually exclusive; that is, only one statement can be the "winner". If not all of the principles are mutually exclusive (i.e. they are independent or orthogonal to each other), then separate them into multiple groups of mutually exclusive statements, to be tallied separately. You may also have to formulate a principle not explicitly stated in the discussion, but which is an obvious alternative to the principles stated, like a status quo option.
As an example, a portion of the first approval vote on AARoads Wiki looked like this:
- Adminship requires a simple majority.
- Adminship requires a three-fourths majority.
- Bureaucrats can create admins at will.
- Adminship requires a two-thirds majority.
- Deadminship requires a two-thirds majority.
- Deadminship requires a simple majority.
- Deadminship requires a simple majority, but there must be a discussion somewhere else first.
- Desysopping should be by a majority vote of other sysops, while the vote of the rest of users could be counted as a single vote.
The two groups of statements are orthogonal to each other—one may well have different favored majority thresholds for adminship and deadminship.
Running the poll
Create a heading for each group of statements, and then a heading for each statement. Users then sign their name under each statement that they would be okay with being the outcome. A user may vote in favor of as many statements as they wish. There are no oppose votes, only support votes.
Users do not include a rationale justifying their vote in an approval vote. That should be done in the discussion preceding the vote; the only thing in the approval voting part of the page should be signatures. This is to clearly separate the debate and voting portions of the discussion. It also helps to keep temperatures cool, by shifting users from defending and attacking ideas toward finding a resolution. This helps to maintain the comity of the wiki as well, as it discourages users from hectoring each other over their votes.
At the end of 14 days, tally up the number of signatures under each vote. Whichever statement has the highest count of signatures in each group is the result of the discussion.