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Lehigh Brown and White

New voting systems hit
By Matt Kapitanyan
April 13, 2003

Many colleges across the country have begun to adopt reforms for student elections that allow instant run-off voting.

Schools recently adopting instant run-off voting include Duke, Vassar and William and Mary.

Caltech, MIT, Rice, Harvard and Princeton University are a few schools that have used the system for years. The number now, however, is growing rapidly, making its way even out of the campuses into local governments.

This November, San Francisco will become the first major U.S. city to use instant run-off voting for elections and the reform has been introduced in 20 states this year.

To ensure leaders elected are representative of the publics will, many student governments as well as local and state governments have a precedent for a majority rule. However, this often leads to run-off elections when one candidate does not receive 50 percent of the votes. These run-offs often result in decreased turnout and increased costs. An instant run-off voting system of voting singles out the true majority candidate in one election.

Instead of holding two separate elections, voters vote for their preference among run-off choices. This way, if no candidate receives a clear majority of first choices, the instant run-off takes place, ensuring that the election will only need to take place once. The system ensures that a majority of students support the victor of the election.

In our surveys students reported that they felt better represented by instant run-off voting than by plurality and some students who havent voted in past elections even said they would vote in future elections if instant run-off voting were implemented, said Georgia Kellogg, a prominent member of the Voting System Task Force.

The Voting System Task Force was responsible for evaluating the new system of voting. After analyzing 10 different voting methods, the Task Force then conducted mock elections with their top four choices to scale student reaction.

The Voting System Task Force decided that instant run-off voting was the best option available, said Max Harrington, UCSD freshman senator and Task Force chair.

Lehigh has yet to adopt the new measure. However, the heavy national push in both campuses and cities alike is hard to ignore.

I think we should definitely adapt this new voting method, Kevin Loeb, 06, said. First off, I doubt half the student body comes out to vote in the first place; I cant imagine how few people come out for the second vote. This new system seems to be much more efficient.

Several members of the Lehigh student senate and class officers said they were not opposed to a change to instant run-off voting.

Run-off voting would be a great step toward having a more efficient electoral system, Freshman Class Vice-President Jordan Miller said. I would support the use of such a program for future elections at Lehigh.

More information on instant run-off voting is available at

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