The decision-making process for Ladle-related issues was sketchy at best before the voting system was in place. Before this, community members might make a forum poll or some complaint thread, and people would argue a point. Very little was ever accomplished and every change was a challenge to authority of sorts.
At one point, people began to question the nature of the Ladle rules themselves and the authority for which they had been created.  It was clear something needed to be done. By February 2009, just about everything related to the Ladle was in question again. A discussion of rules broke out, but this time it was about not just what rules we should have, but how to decide on them as a community. Lackadaisical pointed out a vote from Ladle-16 where the teams successfully decided on settings. Eventually it was decided to try out a quarterly voting schedule using the previous method from Ladle-16. The first quarterly vote coincided with Ladle-21 and has been used rather consistently, with great success. 
The process is simple. Every third Ladle, a discussion thread is created to talk about Ladle issues. Ideas are flushed out, argued, and generally put through the ringer. One week before the Ladle sign-ups close, a voting thread is created. The thread contains the choices for the teams to vote on. Only teams signed up can vote, one vote per team (if you have a large clan with 2 teams, that means 2 votes). Voting closes when sign-ups close.