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Secret-Public Voting in FDA Advisory Committees

Abstract : The following case study examines the workings, consequences and lessons to be learned from a reform of FDA advisory committee decision-making procedures. Up to July 2007, the public voting practiced in these committees was oral and sequential: members sitting around a table expressed their preference in turn. In August 2007 secret-public voting was introduced, first in the imperfect form of hand-raising, then (a few months later and ever since) more systematically in the form of electronic voting. FDA advisory committees constitute an interesting case in terms of methodology because they can be studied both qualitatively and quantitatively: debates and voting are public and recorded in full in easily accessible verbatim minutes. But advisory committee voting is interesting for another reason. The 2007 reform replaced public voting with secret-public voting, but it also replaced oral voting, which left ample opportunity to individual members to express themselves, with “manual” followed by digital voting, which precludes all such expression. It therefore enables us to study two distinct yet intertwined phenomena, a seldom encountered situation of great general value: the history of the shift from public to secret voting, mainly in the area of political elections, has often gone together with changes in the way choices are expressed, and the specific impact of those changes has not always been fully measured. As we shall see in this particular case, the impact of oral voting and of abolishing that method has been underestimated.
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Contributor : Philippe Urfalino <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - 6:47:14 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, August 5, 2020 - 3:17:18 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Friday, February 12, 2016 - 5:14:02 PM


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  • HAL Id : hal-01226341, version 1



Philippe Urfalino, Pascaline Costa. Secret-Public Voting in FDA Advisory Committees. Secrecy and Publicity in Votes and Debates, 2015. ⟨hal-01226341⟩



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