Election Aftermath
Published February 23rd 2005 in Brown Daily Herald
Because Instant Runoff Voting received support from 64.6 percent of the less than 40 percent of undergraduates who voted on the referendum, it will not be implemented in the coming Undergraduate Council of Students elections. After making more than 30 suggestions, the Elections Review Commission created last fall has disbanded. So what are we left with? What will guarantee that students will have confidence in the process and results of elections?

The insufficient support of IRV should not be seen as an endorsement of the unconstitutional back-room deals that occurred in the past, allowing a winner to be declared even when no candidate received a majority. That the outcome of the election is determined in part by the will of the candidates is insufficiently transparent for a student government.

And the results of the WebCT vote should certainly not be construed as support for the existing run-off system. Resentment over the controversial presidential election last spring is what led to the creation of the ERC in the first place.

The spring election made it clear that a number of factors, most notably turnout, can distort campus elections, misrepresent majority sentiment and conceal undercurrents of opinion. That this referendum fell just 2 percent shy of the two-thirds majority needed to enact an IRV system should not distort UCS's actions from here. A clear majority of voters supported IRV - the best sign yet that there exist undercurrents of change amidst the UCS constituency.

With the next UCS elections scheduled for the end of this semester, there has not yet been an opportunity to examine whether the system formerly in place has been effectively changed. Though the ERC has disbanded, its job is not truly done. UCS should formally create a permanent ERC to be called into action following every election to field the concerns of candidates and constituents and ensure the continuous transparency of the electoral process.

The UCS Election Board does oversee elections as they progress, but an institutionalized ERC would give UCS the permanent benefit of hindsight. And the non-UCS members on the ERC provide an important outside perspective.

The results of the referendum should not mean the end of election reform - indeed, UCS has dozens of other ERC recommendations to consider. The referendum must be the beginning of what should be an ongoing practice of allowing the student body to determine what it wants its elections to look like.