"I may be No. 2 to The Diamondback, but I'm No. 1 to
the students!," SGA President-elect Tim Daly said yesterday within
seconds after election results were announced.
Well, not exactly.
Daly, who was endorsed as the No. 2 candidate by the university
newspaper, needed more than 700 votes from people who didn't
actually list him as their first choice for the job to win. This
year's newly designed Instant-Runoff Voting ballot made that
The newly implemented IRV avoided a costly and time-consuming
runoff election, but it also potentially changed the outcome of at
least half of the executive races.
IRV gives voters the option of ranking candidates in order of
preference. If no candidate earns a majority of the votes in the
first round of elections, a computer mechanism kicks in and
eliminates the candidate with the least first-choice votes. For the
voters who marked that losing candidate No. 1, their second-ranked
candidate is counted as their vote. The process continues until a
majority winner emerges.
With candidates openly admitting their hatred for one another,
this SGA race was significantly more interesting than those of the
past several years. The field of candidates more than doubled from
last year's quiet two-man race, voter turnout was relatively high at
22 percent and the final tally exhibited strikingly close races - so
close that the new IRV mechanism was key to several candidates
victories. Because there were five presidential candidates, it was
unlikely any one candidate would receive more than 50 percent of the
But in more than one case yesterday, candidates who originally
were far behind the pack ended up climbing the ranks to victory
thanks to IRV. In past years, only the top two vote-getters would
have survived to the next round of runoff elections.
Change Party candidate for vice president of human relations
Christine Delargy, who was in fourth place after the initial count,
would have been hacked from the ballot in a traditional runoff
election. Instead, she slowly crept to number one after three rounds
And Flash Party candidate for vice president of administrative
affairs Yoni Warren was in first place through three rounds of IRV
before Change Party's Nakiya Vasi barely edged out Warren with 50.4
percent of the vote.
In fact, after the first count, all seven Flash Party executive
candidates were in first place. Three rounds later, the final
winners were a hodgepodge of the Flash, TANG and Change party
SGA Vice President of Campus Affairs Eric Swalwell, who
spearheaded the push for IRV in SGA elections beginning more than a
year ago, hailed the elections as the "most democratic election in
the history of the SGA." But he added that the SGA Elections Board
could have done a better job publicizing the system and that many
student voters may not have known they could rank the candidates by
"I did what I could to assist them and advise them," he said.
"The problem is I don't think the students all ranked [the
"As we look back on this race and we prepare for next year, I
think students will become more comfortable with it and understand
that IRV is the most logical, efficient way to elect somebody."
Change Party presidential candidate Aaron Kraus, who was endorsed
as the No. 1 presidential candidate by The Diamondback, remained in
second place through the full IRV process, but he may have benefited
from a non-IRV vote. Kraus's Change Party consisted of mostly
relative unknowns who could have used an extra week to campaign. In
previous years, Kraus would have had one more week before a separate
runoff vote to gain the few hundred votes needed to overcome Daly.
Said Swalwell: "Beyond the fact that it's
historically proven that voter turnout is reduced in a runoff ... I
think it's convenient for anyone to say that anyone who had another
week could have won."