The Daily Tarheel
By Eshanthi Ranasinghe
April 15, 2003
Although voter turnout has increased with the implementation of
online voting, students at UNC and across the county continue to
complain about lack of representation in student government.
Student complaints and apathy have led several student
governments to adopt new electoral systems, deeming their
"winner-take-all" method outdated and unfair.
"There's a big problem with young people turning out to vote,"
said John Russell, student outreach coordinator at the Center for
Voting and Democracy. "And a change is needed in order to put us
back on the right track toward voter participation."
That change, Russell said, involves the implementation of a new
voting system that allows students to rank candidates in order of
preference for the positions available. If there isn't a majority
winner after votes are cast, the last-place candidate is eliminated,
and the votes of the electors who chose that candidate go to the
candidate they ranked second.
Russell said that choice voting increases the chance that a
ballot leads to representation and that the ranking system better
reflects the views of the electorate.
"Choice voting ... eliminates the concern that young people have
that there are not enough options for them to vote," Russell said.
One of the system's main benefits is that it allows student
government to combine regular elections and runoff elections,
reducing the cost of elections, Russell said.
At UNC, student body presidents only are elected after they
receive a majority vote. But this often requires a runoff election
between the two candidates receiving the highest percentage of
"A lot of schools are adopting it because it is a lot simpler ...
and it takes more money to pay for a second election," Russell
Student Congress Speaker Will Dupont said that though the instant
runoff system appears cost-effective, the ranking system could
magnify the effects of student apathy.
"My fear would be that voter apathy for the second and third
choice would be higher," Dupont said. "For their second and third
choices, students would just fill (the ballot) out in the order it
appears. They'd just go down the ballot."
In order for the system to be effective at UNC, Dupont said,
students would have to understand the importance of the ranking
system. He also said he'd have to research the system carefully.
"I'd have to look up the statistics ... and see how it works at the
big universities that are similar to us."
Other universities that have adopted or are in the process of
establishing the instant runoff system include Duke, Wake Forest and
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