Utah State Statesman
changes in elections
By Emilie Holmes
April 23, 2003
A voting reform system,
called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), is spreading to campuses across
the nation, the Center for Voting and Democracy announced in early
The center, which is based in Takoma Park, Md., is a
nonprofit, non-partisan research organization for voter education,
according to its student outreach coordinator, John
With IRV, voters rank candidates in order of choice,
such as first, second, third and fourth if there are four
candidates. If no candidate wins a majority of votes, which is often
the case when there are numerous candidates, Russell said, the
last-place candidate is eliminated. The ballots are recounted, but
this time, each ballot cast for the defeated candidate counts for
its next-choice candidate. The process of elimination continues,
Russell said, until one candidate receives a majority of the votes.
Russell said he knows of 19 universities to which the IRV
system has spread. San Francisco, he said, is the first U.S. city to
adopt IRV in its city government elections.
IRV is especially
applicable to student elections because of the number of candidates,
"At a university, student government is not bound by
a two-party system," Russell said.
Therefore, many more
candidates are in a university election than a state or national
election, he said.
Utah State University has not adopted this
new system, and so far, there are no plans to do so. Associated
Students of USU adviser Tiffany Evans said she hadn't heard of
Evans said she'd be interested in looking into it, but
so far doesn't like how it sounds. She said she thought university
elections should be as close to the "real world" as possible, since
college students will be moving into that world soon.
Stefano, recently sworn in ASUSU president for the 2003-04 school
year, also said he hadn't heard of IRV but would be interested in
looking at information for it.
"Changes can always be made,"
Di Stefano said Ashley Stolworthy, new ASUSU Public
Relations vice president, has already started looking at reforming
election laws, but not in the direction of an IRV
Stolworthy was unavailable for comment.
Hatch, this school year's ASUSU Public Relations VP, said she
received an e-mail about IRV, but since elections were already in
progress, she disregarded it for this year. She said the people who
sent the e-mail said they would send future information about IRV,
but she hasn't seen any yet.
"The problem with IRV is that we
really try to run elections based off of state election rules,"
Hatch said. "But, it would be worth a future look to see if it would
be a benefit for elections."
Russell said IRV was first
initiated in Australia in 1918. Since then, he said, it has been
used sporadically around the world and has appeared in the United
States only recently.
"It's been flourishing on college
campuses for the last five years," he said. "Word is getting
One of the benefits of IRV, Russell said, is that it
increases voter turnout at elections. Since students only have to
vote once, they are more likely to get online and vote or go to a
polling booth, he said.
"It's hard to get young people out
to vote," he said.
IRV also decreases the amount of money
spent on campaigns, Russell said, because candidates don't have to
spend money campaigning before both a primary and a final
Evans said cost at USU is not a problem, though.
The university limits the amount of money that can be spent
on one campaign ($400), and that includes both the primary campaign
and final, she said.
"At universities like the [University of
Utah], the costs are outrageous," Evans said. "We've done a good job
at keeping costs at a reasonable amount."
for president and vice president at the U are limited to $1,500 for
the entire election, according to the Associated Students of the
University of Utah Web site, www.asuu.utah.edu.
said there probably isn't a need to improve campaigns at USU in
terms of money spent by candidates.
He said he likes the cap
the university puts on campaigns.
Russell said any concern
about IRV being too complicated is unwarranted.
simple," he said. "The students just rank the candidates in order of
The computer takes care of the rest, he
Russell said the only reason people may opposed the IRV
system is they don't like change.
"In America, people are
accustomed to a list and picking their favorite," he said. "Making a
change is difficult for some."
The Center for Voting and
Democracy sponsors a Web site, www.fairvote.org/irv/faq.htm, that
answers questions about the IRV system.
The site said many
places around the world use IRV, including Ireland, Australia,
London and San Francisco.
In Utah, according to the site,
Republicans use IRV to nominate congressional nominees at their
According to a press release from the
Center for Voting and Democracy, universities such as MIT, Harvard
and Princeton have used IRV for years, while other schools, like
Duke, Whitman, and William and Mary, have recently adopted it.
The system has been most recently approved at the University
of California San Diego.
IRV legislation has been introduced
in 20 states, according to the