The SA Balloting Process
SA Balloting begins when the Standards Committee decides the draft of the full standard is stable. The Standards Committee forms a balloting group containing individuals or entities interested in the standard. While anyone can contribute comments, the only votes that count toward approval are those of the eligible members of the balloting group. IEEE SA membership or payment of a per-ballot fee is required to ballot on standards (ballot or vote on the standards outside of the working group).
Balloters usually fall into one of several interest categories (e.g. producers, users). No interest category can comprise over one-third of the balloting group. The goal in balloting is to gain the greatest consensus. A standard will pass if at least 75 percent of all ballots from a balloting group are returned and if 75 percent of these bear a “yes” vote. If ballot returns of 30 percent are abstentions, the ballot fails.
Ballots usually last 30 to 60 days. Balloters can approve, disapprove, or abstain. They can also approve or disapprove with comments. The ballot resolution group responds to all comments, whether submitted by those within or outside of the balloting group.
Anyone can appeal actions and decisions made during the process at any time. Before IEEE SA Standards Board approval, complaints are handled by the Standards Committee managing the standard. After approval, they are handled by the IEEE SA Standards Board if the issue is procedural or by the Standards Committee if the issue is technical.
IEEE has two types of standards balloting. The first is the traditional balloting process by individuals only. The second ballot type consists of entities (corporations, organizations, etc).
In both types of balloting groups, each balloter (individual or entity) has one vote. This reflects the membership options in the IEEE SA. Entities can name a representative and an alternate to cover personnel issues.
Ballot work actually begins while the document is being finalized, with the formation of the balloting group. It is the responsibility of the Standards Committee to form the balloting group.
It is desirable to have representation of the materially interested and affected parties in the balloting group. This is accomplished by inviting a wide variety of interested parties to participate in balloting by forming an invitation pool. Ballot invitations are open for a minimum of 15 days.
Keep in mind that the balloting group is different from the Working Group, and Working Group members may not be automatically included in a balloting group.
You may also want to announce or publicize the upcoming ballot in various media outlets. In any case, forming a balloting group takes time, so don’t wait until your draft is absolutely ready to ballot to start this task. (But you also don’t want to form your balloting group too early so that the group information doesn’t become outdated.)
The myProject system is used to create the balloting group and send an “invitation to ballot”. An IEEE SA Staff Liaison can assist you throughout this balloting process.
Your balloting group must be one of the following types (as stated on the PAR); individuals only or entities only. Entities may have a primary and an alternate representative to the balloting group, but only one vote will count in the ballot (and the primary’s vote is always preferred).
The primary concern when forming the balloting group is also one of the imperative principles of the standards process: balance. A balloting group must consist of a balance of a variety of interests, with no domination by any one group or company. (Contrast this with the Working Group, where anyone can freely participate.) Therefore, determining a balloting group doesn’t involve just looking at potential balloters, but at how they fit into the overall picture of balance. The goal of balance is to have representation from all interested parties, but to avoid an overwhelming influence by any one of those parties.
Balance is usually achieved by potential balloters placing themselves into one of several interest categories. The Standards Committee then examines the interest categories to see if balance has been achieved. The only requirement to join a balloting group is an interest in the subject, an IEEE Account, and IEEE SA membership or payment of the per-ballot fee. Individual balloting groups should have at least 10 members to help ensure this balance. Entity balloting groups should have at least 5 entities.
Once the balloting group is formed, the composition of that balloting group cannot change throughout the duration of the ballot and any subsequent recirculation ballots. (The composition of the ballot group can be changed up until the time when the first ballot starts.) Comments are considered from anyone who contributes them and must be addressed, but the only votes that count towards approval of the document are those of the eligible members of the balloting group.
If a balloter passes away or is incapacitated during the time of ballot, IEEE rules allow for their removal from the ballot group before the close of the first ballot. After the first ballot, the current vote of that balloter will stand, since it can’t be resolved.
What a balloting group is trying to achieve is the imperative principle of consensus. Consensus means agreement among the majority. It does not mean unanimity. A balloting group does not need to achieve 100% approval, or even 95% or 90%. According to IEEE rules, consensus is defined as a minimum 75% return of ballots from the balloting group, and a 75% approval rate from that 75% return group. If this is reached, then consensus has been achieved.
There are several rules that help to define what final level of consensus is reached. All ballot comments have to be responded to, and in considering a response, the draft may be modified to turn a no vote into a yes vote. The issue is what is done to balance the obligations to the majority versus that of the minority. Once consensus is achieved, an obligation to the majority exists to approve and publish the standard quickly. However, all the negative comments must be responded to. The Working Group Chair should attempt to resolve those negative comments, but if there is no indication that further resolution can be achieved based on that, the Working Group Chair should move the document forward for approval, still having met the terms of consensus.
The first goal is to achieve a 75% return on the ballot. Otherwise, the ballot will fail. If a 75% return is not achieved on the date the ballot is to close, the ballot may be extended for an additional period of up to 60 days or until a 75% return is achieved (whichever comes first). The Working Group Chair should contact balloters and urge them to send in their ballots. Often, balloters haven’t had the time to address the document and can be urged to do so.
If a 75% ballot return is not achieved within the allotted time, the ballot will fail. At this point, the Standards Committee should re-form the balloting group (usually including those individuals who responded the first time) and start over again, trying to obtain a 75% return.
If a 75% return is achieved, the next stage is examining the rate of approval. The goal is to have a 75% rate of approval from the returns, so the first step is to see how many approval votes there are and to address their comments, if any. Next, examine the negative ballots with any comments. Those comments should explain any difficulties the balloter has with the current document and offer precise wording for changes that would turn their “no” vote into a “yes” vote. In many cases, the balloter may offer vague solutions or even no solution at all. At this point, the Working Group (or a group established to resolve ballots) should examine the problem to see if they can resolve it on their own, or they may discuss the situation with the balloter and solicit more precise language. If a negative vote comes without comments, it cannot be resolved and does not count towards that percentage of the total votes needed for approval.
Remember, the primary purpose of ballot resolution is to create a document that gains a 75% approval rate from those who voted. There is no obligation to satisfy all concerns once a 75% approval has been gained.
SA Ballot Comments
SA Ballot comments can also fall into one of two categories—technical or editorial. Balloters should classify their comments as either technical or editorial. Identifying these changes can assist the ballot review group greatly. But no matter what type of comment, all unresolved negative comments and the resulting changes must be recirculated.
Once the ballot review group has examined and dealt with all comments, the Working Group must recirculate the ballot if there is a need for that. The major reasons for recirculation are that new technical changes have been introduced in the document or that there are unresolved negative comments. The full balloting group has the right to examine these along with any revisions to the document and determine whether they want to maintain their vote.