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Press Release

New election reform wave hits college campuses
UC-Davis joins student governments adopting fair elections methods

April 1, 2003
Contact: John Russell, 301-270-4616

In a vote that reflects a growing national trend toward better voting methods, the Associated Students of UC-San Diego (ASUCSD) have approved instant runoff voting for student government elections. ASUCSD members voted overwhelmingly for the measure after a Voting Systems Task Force unanimously selected instant runoff voting over nine other systems.

Recommended by Roberts Rules of Order, IRV simulates a majority runoff election, but in a single election. As with traditional delayed runoffs, a candidate wins if receiving a majority (more than 50%) of the vote.  But instead of holding two separate elections, voters vote for both their first choice and for their runoff choices by ranking candidates: first choice, second and third. If no candidate receives 50% of first choices, the instant runoff takes place. The weak candidates are eliminated, and ballots are counted for the top-ranked candidate on each ballot in the runoff. The system ensures a majority of students support the winning candidate, without the cost, negative campaigning and drop in turnout often associated with delayed runoff elections.

Many colleges such as Caltech, MIT, Rice, Harvard and Princeton have used IRV for years, but now the number is growing rapidly. Schools recently adopting IRV include Duke, Vassar, University of California Davis, University of Maryland, University of Illinois, Whitman and William and Mary. This November, San Francisco will become the first major U.S. city to use IRV for citywide elections. IRV legislation has been introduced this year in 20 states.

The Voting System Task Force analyzed 10 different voting methods and then conducted mock elections with their top four choices to gauge student reaction. The Voting System Task Force decided that IRV was the best option available, said Max Harrington, UCSD freshman senator and task force chair. The AS heeded our call, and Im proud to say that UCSD has now joined in a growing movement which is seeking to re-democratize our country,

A main benefit of IRV cited by the task force was its positive effect on voter turnout. In our surveys students reported that they felt better represented by IRV than by plurality and some students who havent voted in past elections even said they would vote in future elections if IRV were implemented, said Georgia Kellogg, an At-large member of the task force.

To ensure representative leaders, many student governments as well as local and state jurisdictions around the country have a majority rule requirement for elections that often leads to runoff elections when one candidate does not garner 50% of the votes. At the student government level these runoffs can result in decreased turnout and increased costs. The administration of a campus-wide election can cost several thousand dollars.

I think that instant runoff voting is the financially responsible choice since it corrects the problems of runoffs in one system, promotes maximized voter choice and better ensures majority rule, said UCSD freshman senator Mike Schoeck.


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Copyright 2002     The Center for Voting and Democracy
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