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Using Choice Voting
in School Elections

March 2003

While there are several voting methods that fall under the catagory of full representation, choice voting is the most widely used and historically significant for student elections in the United States. Choice voting allows legislatures to reflect a wide range of student views. By using multi-seat districts, choice voting lowers the percentage of votes needed for a candidate to win a seat. In regular plurality elections, candidates need 50 percent of the vote to win. By lowering the victory threshold, the chances for a more diverse student legislature are increased.

This applies especially well to student legislatures that many times are dominated by a particular group on campus. The single winner system currently used at most schools allows this dominant group to win a vast majority of seats. Under choice voting, smaller student groups can consolidate their support and win representation.

Choice voting is used to elect many national legislatures around the world, as well as the City Council and School Board in Cambridge, MA. We are continually updating our list as more schools adopt reforms and with more information on how choice voting is working on these campuses.

Schools using Choice Voting

Harvard University

Since the 1940s, Harvard has used the choice voting system to tally their ballots for the Harvard-Radcliffe Undergraduate council as outlined in Article II, Section 21.4 of their Constitution.

Lane Community College

The Associated Students of Lane Community College use choice voting to elect their officers and senators as stated in Article IX, Section 6 of their Constitution

Metropolitan State University

MSU recently decided to use the 'Borda count' method of choice voting in order to elect their officers.

Princeton University

Choice voting is used to elect the undergraduate members of the Council of the Princeton University Committee. There are 10 seats available during each spring election and students are asked to rank up to 10 candidates on the ballot.

University of California at Berkeley

UCB uses IRV and a choice voting system to elect their officers. Their voting procedures are outlined in Article VII, Section 5 of their Constitution.

University of Michigan

UM uses the 'Borda count' voting system within their LSA Student Government (College of Literature, Science, and the Arts) as stated in Article VII, Section C-2 of their Constitution. The MSA (Michigan Student Assembly) also uses the 'Borda count' method to elect their representatives, as outlined in Article V, Section A-1 of their Constitution.

Vassar College

In September of 2002 Vassar's student government voted nearly unananimously to adopt instant runoff voting and the choice voting form of proportional representation for future student elections.  Read CVD's report on the win .

Whitman College

Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington recently passed a resolution to use IRV for its single-seat elections and choice voting to elects its Student Senate.

Other Full Representation Systems

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

The Student Government uses the open party list form of full representation for legislative offices and instant runoff voting for executive offices.  2002 was the first election under these voting rules, look here for more information.

Carleton College (Northfield, MN)

Cumulative Voting, a full representation with multi-member districts, has long been used for legislative elections at Carleton.


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