A.S. approves instant runoff
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
"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
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.