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UC-Irvine New University

Choice Voting May Improve Elections
By Sriba Kwadjovie
April 21, 2003

At this time of the year, students at a number of colleges and universities across the nation are taking part in student government elections.

According to many concerned students, the biggest problem with the elections process lies in the fact that many UCI students just do not vote.

Despite the flurry of activity that was seen during elections week, student turn-out at UCI has always been low.

According to ASUCI president Jeff Minhas, a fourth-year political science major, voter turn-out was dismally low when he ran for president last year.

When I ran for president last year, the results showed only about a 22 percent student voter turn-out, Minhas said. Low voter turn-out is not only a problem facing UCI, but has also been an issue for colleges across the country.

The general attitude of many students as to why they do not involve themselves in college- level politics may best be summed up by fourth-year political science major Michael Nguyen, who stated, Im just not interested. I do not feel that there is enough information about the candidates and only a certain group of people really know the candidates.

UCI as well as most universities currently apply a traditional voting system, wherein students go to select voting sites to vote.

However, others argue that the current system is ineffective because it only reflects the views of the minority of the student population.

As a result, this creates student apathy and discourages students from voting and participating in the elections process.

These were the exact thoughts and feelings of students that inspired a recent graduate of the University of Iowa and current student outreach coordinator at the Center for Voting and Democracy, John Russell, to write an article entitled Voter Apathy or Political Reality.

In the article, he discusses why students fail to participate in student government elections and a possible solution to this problem.

At many colleges, whoever wins the majority of the votes, wins the entire election, Russell said. This does not allow for any representation for the students who voted for a candidate that lost, leaving many students feeling they have no voice and therefore, lose any incentive to vote in any student government election processes.

To combat these realities, members of the Center for Voting and Democracy created an alternative system to democratic voting for student government, known as choice voting.

Choice voting is a new system that promotes a diverse election result, according to Russell, wherein students are asked to vote and rank candidates according to their preference.

This, in turn, allows all students voices and stances to be heard rather than just the majority.

He explained that by indicating their preference, all voters are assured their votes will count and that at least one of their preferred candidates will be given a position.

Whoever receives the majority of the votes will still receive the majority of the seats, but not all of them. The remaining seats will be given to the other candidates who ranked second, third, fourth, etc. It works to increase the representation of a student who may have no voice otherwise, Russell said.

Universities such as UC Davis, Harvard, University of Illinois, Carleton College and Vassar college have all adopted this system of voting.

Still, Russell says that the drawback to choice voting is in the aftermath.

The complexities of the process means a lot more counting and organizing when all the votes are tabulated.

Regardless of the type of voting system implemented at UCI, fourth-year psychology and anthropology major Yesenia Ortiz believes that voting is something all students should care about.

Voting is important because the students who are elected into government positions are able to determine campus life and the interests of all student body, how our tuition money is distributed and how it serves to run the university, Ortiz said.


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