The UT Student Government election ballot this Wednesday & Thursday will ask “Do you support the implementation of a proportional voting system?” Vote YES!
This amendment will eliminate runoff elections, which have less voter turnout and waste time and money. The proposed voting system will also result in more representative winners. The Daily Texan Editorial Board called it “a desperately-needed measure that will improve transparency and engagement with Student Government” and “a rare opportunity to make a positive, simple fix and improve life at UT.”
So how will the new system work?
For single-winner races like Executive Alliance, instead of voting for your single favorite candidate you’ll have the opportunity to rank candidates in your preferred order.
If a candidate gets the majority of first choice votes then they win, just like our current system. The difference comes into play when nobody gets a majority. With ranked voting, there’s no need to hold a whole new runoff election. Instead, the candidate with the fewest first choice votes is eliminated, and each vote cast for that candidate will be transferred to the next ranked candidate on that voter’s ballot. This step repeats until a candidate ends up with the majority of votes.
So, according to our ballot above, John Citizen is our first choice. But, if John is eliminated due to receiving the fewest first choice votes, our vote will go to our second choice, Mary Hill. If Mary is then eliminated, our vote will go to Jane Doe. If Jane is then eliminated, we’re indifferent as to whether Joe or Fred wins, so our vote is discarded.
Won’t this make voting more complicated?
NO! You only rank as many candidates as you want to. You can still skip entire races or only rank your first-choice candidate and skip the rest of the ballot, if you’d like.
Okay, I get how it works, but why is it better?
Besides eliminating runoff elections, the system is a fairer one. To see why, let’s take a look at a multi-winner race, like for University-Wide representatives. Imagine there are two groups on campus, the Jets and the Sharks, competing for 4 seats. The Jets make up 75% of UT students and the Sharks make up the other 25%. The Jets run 4 candidates and the Sharks, a smaller group, only run 1 candidate. So what would a fair outcome look like? Well, since 75% of the voters are Jets, they should get 75% of the seats, so 3 seats. And since 25% of the voters are Sharks, they should get 25% of the seats, so 1 seat. This is the result you get with the proposed proportional voting system — in fact, that’s why it has proportional in its name.
Under our current system, however, the Jets wind up with all 4 seats and the Sharks with 0 seats, despite the Sharks making up 25% of the population! This is because our current system gives you one vote per seat, so in this case, 4 votes. So if there are 75 Jet voters, then each gets 4 votes, and they will vote for all 4 of the Jet candidates, so each Jet candidate will end up with 75 votes. If there are 25 Shark voters, they also get 4 votes each, but only vote for their 1 Shark candidate, who only ends up with 25 votes, since you can’t give multiple votes to a single candidate. And just like that, our current voting system eliminates minority representation.
Agree this is a problem? Then vote YES to implement the proportional voting system.
I think this voting stuff is interesting. How do I learn more and be a part of changes like this in the future?