UCD Students get first look at 'choice
By Sharon Stello
November 11, 2003
UC Davis is gearing up this week for
its first election using a "choice voting" system, which allows
voters to rank candidates in order of preference and avoids runoff
Students approved the new voting system in
February, with 67 percent voting in favor. Mary Ball, chairwoman of
the Associated Students of UCD Elections Committee, said a test run
went well last week and the new system is ready for voters to
"So far, everything looks good," Ball said. "And we're
expecting good voter turnout."
This week's election includes
16 candidates running for six seats on the Student Senate and five
constitutional amendments. Polls open at 8 a.m. Wednesday and close
at 4 a.m. Friday. Voting will be conducted online as it has been
done for years at UCD.
Under the new system, students may
click on each candidate's photo to read his or her statement and
then vote by ranking as many or as few of the candidates as
In Senate elections, a candidate must receive one
more than one-seventh of the votes to be elected. If no one receives
enough votes to win, the candidate with the fewest votes is
eliminated from the race and those ballots are recounted, looking at
each voter's second choice candidate. When someone is elected, his
or her excess votes are transferred to each voter's next choice.
This process continues until six candidates are
Elections for ASUCD president and vice president
work the same way, but a candidate must garner one more than half of
the votes to win each office.
Chris Jerdonek and Sonny
Mohammadzadeh, graduate students in mathematics and both members of
the Davis College Green Party, co-authored the constitutional
amendment for choice voting.
With the help of about 25
volunteers, they collected more than 1,500 signatures needed to
place the amendment on the ballot and campaigned to educate voters
about the proposal. Jerdonek said it's rewarding to see their work
"It's going to be nice to see the fruits of our
labor," Jerdonek said.
Jerdonek and Mohammadzadeh said they
believe choice voting will better represent voters. With a
traditional voting system, they said, candidates running as a slate
typically win all the available seats.
"The outcome of the
Senate elections were very skewed and a lot of students weren't
being represented," Jerdonek said.
Mohammadzadeh said choice
voting will minimize the number of wasted votes.
just comes down to the mathematics of it all," Mohammadzadeh said.
"Your vote has more power this way."
In a winner-takes-all
voting system, "half of the votes aren't doing anything,"
Jerdonek and Mohammadzadeh said they
would like to see choice voting in place everywhere.
it's catching on more and more," Mohammadzadeh said. "But I think
the road to getting proportional representation on a national level
is very far away."
"Locally is the thing we can change
first," Jerdonek said.
Countries such as Sweden, Scotland,
Ireland and Australia use choice voting. Some American cities also
have implemented the alternative system. The school board and City
Council in Cambridge, Mass., as well as the school board in New York
City use choice voting. The Utah Republican Party uses choice voting
to nominate congressional candidates and Louisiana uses instant
runoff voting for overseas ballots to reduce turn-around time in
case of runoff elections.
UC Berkeley, UCLA and Stanford
University, MIT and Harvard use choice voting. UC San Diego also
recently adopted this method.
"Smart kids go to these
schools," Jerdonek said.
Steven Hill, a senior analyst at the
Center for Voting and Democracy, was the campaign manager of
Proposition A in San Francisco, the historic campaign that resulted
in the adoption of instant runoff voting to elect local government
officials there. The system is expected to be used starting in
Hill said choice voting "makes sure the winner is the
one preferred by the most voters."
Under traditional voting
systems, he said, candidates representing the majority of voters may
not be elected.
For example, he said, if there are three
liberal candidates and one conservative running for office in a
district where the majority of voters are liberal, the conservative
candidate could win if voters don't agree on which liberal candidate
they like best. But, a single liberal candidate could sweep the
In elections where there are several seats to be
filled, the majority group will always outvote the minority groups
for all the seats.
However, he said, choice voting allows
each group to have its share of seats.
representation in proportion to your voting strengths," Hill
Hill said legislation to implement instant runoff
voting has been introduced in 20 states. Choice voting also appears
to be gaining popularity at universities.
Hill said when
young people hear about choice voting, they like the idea of a
voting system that frees them from being bound to political
"They like the way these systems liberate them to
vote for the candidates they like," Hill said. "It's one of those
things where the more you hear about it, the more you like