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UCSD Guardian

A.S. approves instant runoff
By Clayton Worfolk
April 3, 2003

The A.S. Council overwhelmingly approved the implementation of instant runoff voting in A.S. elections at its March 12 meeting. The open role call vote, which was tallied at 17-3-2 on March 14, came after a special presentation by the Voting Systems Task Force, which unanimously recommended adopting IRV. The task force, which was chartered by the A.S. Council in January, chose IRV over nine other potential voting systems, including approval, Condorcet and the current system of plurality voting.

The council's decision will take effect fifth week of spring quarter and will first be applicable to the 2004 A.S. elections.

Under IRV, voters have the option of ranking candidates by preference, and if a candidate receives over 50 percent of first-place votes, he or she wins the election, just as he or she would under the plurality voting system. However, if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the first-place votes, the candidate who received the least number of first-place votes is eliminated, and each vote belonging to that candidate is transferred to his or her voters' second choices. This process continues until a candidate has received over 50 percent of the votes.

Supporters of IRV claim that the voting system is more democratic than the current system because it means that a candidate must garner a true majority of the votes to win the election.

"The biggest outcome [of implementing IRV] will be ensuring that the candidate elected has the broadest base of support," said Eleanor Roosevelt College Freshman Senator Max Harrington, who chaired the Task Force.

IRV also better represents voters' sentiments by eliminating vote-splitting and third party "spoilers," allowing voters to vote their conscience, according to IRV advocates.

"We wanted a system where voters can vote sincerely and not strategically," Harrington said.

However, several members of council raised concerns regarding IRV implementation.

"My main concern was that [IRV] was going to be too confusing a system," said John Muir College Senior Senator and Senate Chair Corinne Hart, who voted against adopting IRV. "We have such a low voter turnout, anyways. Making [the voting system] different would discourage voting."

In its presentation to the A.S. Council, members of the task force contended that IRV would increase voter turnout because it better represents students. It would also lead to campaigns with more debate because more powerful candidates and slates will be more apt to address issues raised by smaller candidates and slates due to their increased prospect of winning elections.

During its presentation, the task force reported findings from its Jan. 28 and Feb. 21 mock elections on Library Walk. The task force reported that out of over 100 students polled, 81 percent felt that IRV represented them, and most people polled felt it was the best voting system out of approval, Condorcet and plurality voting.

However, Hart questioned the actual representation provided in the task force's poll.

"The survey used was [of] less than 1 percent of the student body," Hart said. "That was not enough evidence for me to change the entire voting system at UCSD."

The Voting Systems Task Force was composed of an A.S. senator from each UCSD college and four at-large members from the student body and was dissolved upon completion of its recommendations. However, members of the task force are currently advocating the implementation of IRV in college councils and meeting with StudentLink representatives to discuss the logistics of online IRV voting, according to Harrington.


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