Democracy Center - Using sequential choice

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Research and advice on methods of voting and election

Sequential choice - name proposals

A proposal concerning the merger of five local government areas into one was put to the vote in September 1997. On the same occasion, a survey was made to find out voters’ opinion on the 13 proposals for a name for the new area that would result from the merger. The voters were asked to put a 1 against the one they liked best, “and so on”. Further instructions were available at the polling stations. The method was not publicised in advance to anyone apart from some of the election officers, and the names were first published only the day before polling day. Seven hundred and one voters cast ballots on the merger proposal.

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The National Flower of Iceland

In 2004 it was decided which flower should be the National Flower of Iceland, based on a public opinion poll held by Landvernd, the Icelandic Environment Association, and the newspaper Morgunblaðið. The project was managed by representatives of four ministries, but the actual work was carried out by Landvernd. The poll was done online during October 1-15 by use of ballots printed in Morgunblaðið. The result was announced in the presence of the President and the Minister of Agriculture. The total votes cast were 7025, of which 6919 were valid. The voting method applied was sequential choice; voters were to express their choice by ranking seven given flowers on a scale from one to seven.

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Sequential choice - plot under two buildings

At Hvanneyri, a small population centre in the west of Iceland, two building sites had to be chosen, one for a laboratory for the Agricultural College, the other for the farm technology department of the Agricultural Research Institute. As the property was owned by the state, the Ministry of Agriculture asked the principal of the college to recommend suitable sites. There were different opinions about possible sites. As employees of the Agricultural College and the Agricultural Research Institute, the inhabitants of Hvanneyri had to take the interest of these institutions into account; as local residents, they had to consider the implications for their community of the traffic from cars and farm machinery resulting from the siting of the new buildings.

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Sequential Choice: the Gjábakki Road Construction Project

In the spring of 2008 Landvernd, the Icelandic Environment Association, managed a sequential choice project for the Gjábakki road construction project between Lake Thingvallavatn and Lake Laugarvatn, with the assistance and supervision of the Democracy Center. The choices presented were five in all. Road 1 was the old road, Road 2 was the road location presented by the Icelandic Road Administration. Of the votes cast 1,351 were valid.

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Sequential choice on unification

A national referendum was held in Iceland in 1993 on a restructuring of local government. A government committee had recommended mergers that would have affected local government areas in most parts of the country. These were put to the vote in the local areas. The majority in two-thirds of the local areas were against the committee’s proposal. But although the proposal was rejected, there was nothing to indicate what people actually wanted instead: it is not certain that they wanted the status quo to continue.

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