In an effort to foster compromise in a bitterly
divided Duke Student Government, President Joshua
Jean-Baptiste signed legislation Friday calling for a new
presidential election system after threatening to veto the
Jean-Baptiste warned, however, that the plan should be
delayed a year if the technology is not perfectly in place
before the polls open March 5--a circumstance that bill
proponents agreed would be necessary and a scenario that is
"I wanted the non-veto to be a public sign of compromise,"
Jean-Baptiste said. "It is very important that we restructure
the organization, and I'm going to continue pushing for a
restructuring. Everyone might not love every part of the
process but we have to work together to benefit the students."
Under the new system, which the Legislature passed by a
narrow 26-13 vote last Wednesday (the measure necessitated a
two-thirds majority to pass), a presidential candidate must
win a majority of the vote or face an instant runoff by which
voters' rankings of the candidates eliminates contenders until
one effectively takes a majority.
Currently, a candidate simply needs to win by a margin of
victory of at least 6 percent, no matter how small a
percentage of the total vote that may require. No presidential
winner has ever garnered more than 48.4 percent of the vote in
a DSG election.
"I still have my reservations," Jean-Baptiste said. "I
question the true initial motives behind it. And I don't think
we have time to implement it in time for the elections."
Attorney General Will Fagan said he is unsure whether the
technology will be ready for the instant runoff feature to be
implemented this year.
"We have conversations started with people on the tech
side.... We're going to weigh the decision pretty heavily," he
A contingency plan was included in the bylaw changes if the
instant runoff does not come to fruition. The change
eliminates the majority requirement but increases the
necessary margin of victory to 10 percent.
Jean-Baptiste said another year is probably necessary to
educate voters about the new system and create the software to
Executive Vice President Justin Ford said he is happy to be
able to put behind him the experience of the past several
weeks, in which Jean-Baptiste and the other members of the
executive committee exchanged blows in The Chronicle and
"As one of the principal authors of the bill, I'm glad to
see it go through, and I'm happy to see us try to move on to
something else," said Ford, a senior.
Jean-Baptiste agreed. "This in itself is a sign of me being
more concerned about getting things done than about petty
politics, and I hope that that same kind of attitude can be
adopted by everyone involved with the process of change," he