Future UOSA elections need more accurate runoff

By Steven Hoeschele
Published April 1st 2005 in The Oklahoma Daily

Congratulations to those who won and conducted UOSA's well-run election using instant runoff voting (IRV), which combines traditional runoffs into one election and produces a winner with majority support. While the recent election was well-managed, I would suggest a way to make UOSA elections a little more democratically sound.

Since Scott Mason came in second with 1,975 votes, and his closest rival, Josh Woodward, received 1,925 votes, Mason advanced to the runoff. This is fine under a traditional runoff, where voters return to the polls for a second round. However, IRV typically eliminates candidates sequentially, or one by one.

Why? In this race, Woodward lost by only 50 votes; yet the fourth candidate, Ryan Conley, received 1,265. Had Conley's votes alone been redistributed, it's quite possible that Woodward could have made up the 50-vote gap and advanced to the final round, maybe even win it all. The Mason-Woodward gap was only 0.66 percent, a very slim margin compared to Conley's 16 percent. Yet Woodward never received that "runoff within the runoff."

True, candidates leading after the first round win most IRV elections, but voting systems should give the right person a chance in the final round. It's simply sound political theory.

As an IRV expert, I recommend that UOSA use a sequential IRV elimination in the next election. Leaders should continue to strive for excellence in their elections and provide every assurance that no one is denied a trip to the final round without a runoff in between. No candidate should wonder, "What if?"