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California Aggie

Choice Voting increases meaning of votes
By Sonny Mohammadzadeh
November 25, 2003

Nov. 25, 2003  Two weeks ago, UC Davis experienced its firstever Choice Voting election as mandated by the Choice Voting Amendment, which was passed by 67 percent of voters in winter 2003. I give many thanks to Creative Media and the ASUCD Elections Committee for doing a great job with the election.

Choice Voting is a ranked voting system based on the principles of proportional representation. What do I mean by this? Any system used in a representative democracy, such as ASUCD, must satisfy the following principles: majority rule and a maximization of representation. Maximization of representation is equivalent to a minimization of wasted votes (votes that do not elect anybody). The old voting system satisfied neither of these while Choice Voting satisfies both.

There are theoretical proofs to support this claim, but here I will introduce some statistical evidence. In the past five elections before Choice Voting, the average percentage of wasted votes was approximately 53.7 percent. That means that in those elections, more than half of all total votes ended up doing nothing. It's as if more than half of those who voted were completely ignored by the system which we had entrusted to represent us.

Now compare this to the data from this past Choice Voting election. A simple calculation shows that 87 percent of all total votes ended up electing somebody. Thus, not only do we finally have a voting system which guarantees majority rule, but it also has an incredibly low number of wasted votes. We can now finally rest assured that the senate elected is truly much more representative of student voters.

Unfortunately, there have been misconceptions of what Choice Voting's effect and purpose are. For example, many think that the purpose of Choice Voting is to elect independents. This thought is flatout false. The purpose of Choice Voting is to elect a more representative student government than our old voting system and, hence, it is a major advantage for all voters.

It does not give independents an advantage over others; it simply makes the playing field level. The fact that no independents were elected this quarter says almost nothing about Choice Voting, but it says volumes about the effectiveness of independent campaigns this quarter.

The second misconception is that a "confusing" voting system such as Choice Voting deters voters and will decrease voter turnout. This argument is illogical because the only "confusing" thing about Choice Voting is how the votes are tallied. Knowing how to rank preferences, I would guess, is not "confusing" for a college student. But understanding how votes are tallied is not a prerequisite to being able to vote meaningfully. When people vote in any election, all they expect is that their vote will count toward electing their candidates. It doesn't matter whether or not they rank, bullet, or anything else.

The fact that this election had a lower voter turnout than some previous elections says more about the quality and visibility of candidates than about the voting system used. In fact, in the long run, once people start realizing that under Choice Voting their vote is more important and meaningful than with the old voting system, I feel we will see a gradual increase in voter turnout.

As I've mentioned, the objectives of Choice Voting are to elect a more representative student government than the old voting system could. Statistical evidence proves this, making Choice Voting an extremely important factor in the health of ASUCD. Of course, please do not take my word for it. Do your own independent statistical analyses of the past elections to convince yourself that under Choice Voting we can finally call ourselves a truly representative democracy.

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