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Vassar Latest College to Adopt Choice Voting and
Instant Runoff Voting

September 2002

(In the summer of 2002, Michael Fabius worked as an associate with the Center for Voting and Democracy, focusing in particular on outreach to college campuses about choice voting and instant runoff voting. Following is a report about his college voting to convert student council elections to these more advanced, fair voting methods.  See also our list of schools that use alternative systems .)

At the conclusion of an exciting question and answer period, my co-chair, Josh Stevenson, and I produced a near unanimous decision to adopt Instant Runoff Voting and Choice Voting in Vassar's student government.

Vassar now joins a growing list of student governments already electing their student leaders with instant runoff voting. Vassar is also among the first student governments to implement the choice voting method of proportional representation. Implementing these valuable reforms at colleges and universities is an excellent method to educate the next generation of decision makers. Who knows, perhaps a future senator or influential politician will now be electing their student representatives with instant runoff voting and choice voting. How much easier would our struggle be if the elected officials we try to convince had already used IRV and/or PR when they were still in school?

If you are interested in pursuing IRV/PR education in colleges, universities or even high schools, please copy, paste and/or edit the pasted e-mail below. As an alumni/ae, you may be able to influence the current student government to consider this reform or your son or daughter may be able to convince their student government to implement IRV or PR.

You may also download valuable materials at that you can pass along to student government leaders. You are certainly invited to respond with any questions.

Thank you,

Michael Fabius

IRV/PR & Student Government

As we all return to campus, it is a time where we can re-evaluate what the campus provides, including our student government. How does our student government represent us? How is our student government a responsible democracy? Is our election method as good as it could be?

Are our elections plagued by candidates who win with 40%, 30%, or a lower percentage of the votes? When a candidate wins with 40%, it also means that 60% voted in opposition of that candidate. This is not majority rule, it's minority rule.

Are our plagued by runoff elections between the top two candidates where student participation drops into the miniscule percentages? Why ask students to make a second trip to the polls, election administrators to work twice as hard on a second election and candidates to spend twice as much money on a second campaign when this is all unnecessary?

The answer is a new election reform called instant runoff voting. It is used on campus as large as University of Maryland, University of Wisconsin, Harvard and Stanford and as small as Carleton and Whitman. Instant runoff voting simulates a runoff election by allowing students to rank their candidates in the order of their preferences. This means students get a first choice, second choice, third choice, etc and the student government gets a runoff election that guarantees majority rule without the costs in time, money and poor voter turnout of a second election.

My name is Michael Fabius, I am the National Campus Coordinator for the Center for Voting and Democracy. It is my job to facilitate the conversion of a tradional election system to instant runoff voting. The Center is a non-profit organization and my assistance is entirely volunteer. I'm already working hard on campuses such as Vassar College and William & Mary and I hope both these schools will pass legislation before the end of the semester.

I have a number of materials that offer more information on instant runoff voting and would help any individual interested in implementing this reform. If you would like the materials, I can send them to you via snail mail or you may visit my listserve at to download the materials. For more information you can visit

Thank you very much,

Michael Fabius
Student, Vassar College
National Campus Coordinator, Center for Voting and Democracy [email protected]

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