Different uses for voting
need different types of voting.
Introducing fair-share funding for projects

Spending Uses

Need for fair-share funding.
Civic Clubs and Congregations
Common Pool Resource Users
Venture Capital Groups
Survey Research
Grant Committees
Election Audits
Legislatures and Councils
Subscription Media
Employee Funds

Civic clubs might use FS to improve their selection of service projects. Buyers' clubs and environmental groups might use FS in the same way. The ballots and tally allocate the club's limiting resource, money or volunteer labor.

Highly-responsive democratic clubs for neighborhoods, consumers and other groups may grow more popular if members know it is impossible for one interest group to dominate and control all funding. Such clubs are a form of economic organization somewhere between individual consumers and the government in terms of size, choices, and negotiating power relative to corporations.

There will always be public problems and opportunities that need area-wide, government regulation. But if clubs flourish, the balance of economic power would tilt a bit less toward the competitive cultures of big corporations, politics, or individualism, and more toward cooperative, voluntary associations.

Common-Pool Resources, CRPs — such as forests, fisheries, gas fields, grazing land or water — often can be governed best by the users. Voting rules affect some of the “design principles” needed for success.

  • Collective choice by rules that let most members participate
    FS lets more voters affect the results than other methods do.
  • Nested enterprises, with local CPRs at the base, are the best way to govern big Common-Pool Resources.
    FS finds ad hoc interest groups, such as more than one small CPR.
  • Communication practices must effectively link members.
    FS ballots quickly send a clear message from each member.
    Where reps set the budgets, let all members see each rep's ballot.
  • Reciprocity between members
    FS helps members choose projects to fund and share together.
  • Trust among members grows, helped by good communication, reciprocity and the other principles.
    FS gives each member a fair share of spending power; no one is shut out; no one is a “sucker”.

Elinor Ostrom found these principles as she, “advanced economic governance research from the fringe to the forefront of scientific attention.” in the words of her 2009 Nobel Prize committee. She showed how common pool resources often can be managed best by the users, rather than by governments or private companies.

Venture capital groups might give each member a number of ballots equal to his or her investment shares. The tally finds which proposals score high on enough ballots to win funding and how much funding.

Investment fund managers might use Condorcet and fair-share rules to consolidate experts' opinions on stocks. The voting weight of each expert could depend on his or her past performance.

Market research can use fair-share tallies of polling data, for example, ranking features for cars. FS would coalesce the votes into a few models for the company to manufacture efficiently.

Grant givers in foundations and government can use fair-share spending to spread grants well in the community of interest. This works best when the grant committee accurately reflects that community.

Emergency response leaders use simulation software to predict the path of a wild fire, the plume of a toxic cloud, the route of a lost hiker and other scenarios. But they also use human judgment by polling the experts on the team. They prioritize the allocation of resources to areas in the emergency zone. (Thanks to response expert William G. Sanderson for teaching this.)

Election audits likewise can combine expert opinions. They need to send the audit teams to the most vulnerable precincts.

There is a great opportunity for Fair-share Spending in the Omnibus Transportation Bill of the U.S. Congress. Each year it allocates funds to hundreds of projects. Critics often find, hidden in the huge bill, projects designed to benefit only 1 business in 1 rep's district — hardly a federal matter. Fair-share Spending would require each item to win substantial funding from a substantial number of reps; then it would let constituents see and judge their rep's choices.

Reps with seats on powerful committees control much more money than other reps. Fair-share Spending, FS, would be evenhanded to all.

Voting could control a cooperative journal, video or Internet channel. A board of directors, elected by an ensemble rule, hires and directs the management. The subscriber-voters directly allocate most of the funds for features and columnists, supplements and cartoons. This is an incentive to join because part of the subscription fee is allocated by the subscriber and only subscribers may vote. Thus it satisfies our innate desire for “strong reciprocity”.

Through Fair-share Spending, each subscriber's “voting weight” is a fixed portion of the subscription fee.

It might work this way: For a week the journal shows an expanded comics section with new cartoons. On Friday that section includes a ballot. Ballots received by the following Friday count in the results, published the next week. Such surveys maintain readers' interest and strengthen their sense of involvement.

Voter Media is an outstanding innovation which “helps communities connect with their elected leaders, by letting voters allocate community funds to competing blogs.”

The Evolution of FS in One Community

A community-owned furniture maker in the U.S. was the inspiration for developing fair- share spending. For over 25 years the 80 employee- owners have voted to fund special projects -- mostly shared amenities. Over time, various voting methods have been tried, as designers made them more accurate and fair.

Their problem is complicated because: 1) They want minority groups, say ten people, to own the power to fund some of their wants/needs. 2) But they don't want any individual to use this public fund for private desires. 3) Yet some items, for example, a $10 disk, cost much less than one person's $1,000 share of the overall fund.

  • In 1976 voters were given cards to place in jars for the ongoing departments and some project proposals. Predictably, one voter gave all his cards to his own work group. He contributed nothing to building maintenance, transportation and other essentials. It was an advisory vote and the management team ignored such obvious manipulations.

  • In the 1980s voters marked paper ballots for ongoing departments and for One-Time Resource Allocations or “OTRAs”. A voter wrote how much he or she would give each department, within limits, if the annual budget were theirs to spend. A department then got the average amount that everyone voted for it.

    A voter also wrote how much he or she would give each project if the discretionary fund were theirs to spend. Funding went to the projects with the most supporters. A project then got the average amount that supporters voted for it. Each project had a minimum budget, so it could not win based on the “support” of $1 votes nor have its funding pulled down by such votes.

    Occasionally a project to help a minority won by persuading a majority, but some small groups clearly felt they were unable to fund their desires or needs.

    This is the bloc-vote election rule adapted to funding projects. It usually elects three or five reps from a district. It lets a voter cast as many votes as there are seats to fill; but he or she may give only one vote to a candidate. To fill three seats, a voter casts three votes, one to each of three candidates. This usually elects three reps for the majority and none for minority groups. But if the majority divides their votes among more than three candidates, they could all lose.

  • In 1993 a form of limited vote was proposed: each voter could write how much he or she would give each project if only half of the discretionary fund were theirs to spend. This rule gives minority interests a better chance to win their share of funds. It also shows voters they can influence only a small share of their community's spending power.

  • Transferable Votes were also mentioned. These early rules for FS are given in more detail on the page Other Rules for Fair-Shares.

This community's story shows that many multi-winner election rules can be adapted for one-time resource allocations. The use does not change a rule's tendency toward an erratic or central or fair distribution of winners.

The need for fair-share spending is shown starkly on the page about the earmark process used by the US Congress, some state legislatures and city councils. It lets a few politicians control central funds for local uses.

You might skip that page to see a much better system called Participatory Budgeting. But you will see that it too needs fair-share voting. Participatory Budgeting

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