A.S. to look at voting systems

The A.S. Council approved the assembly of an ad hoc task force to explore potential voting systems that could improve the electoral process at UCSD on Jan. 9, its first meeting of winter quarter.

The ASUCSD Ad Hoc Task Force on Voting Systems will, according to its charter, “”research and evaluate the benefits and detriments of various types of college and university voting systems that could be implemented at UCSD.”” Specifically, the task force will address the possibility of instituting an instant runoff voting system at UCSD.

The A.S. Council approved the creation of the task force by a vote of 14 to 1, with four councilmember abstentions. Prior to the council’s approval, there was a motion to pull the item so it could be reviewed by a committee after A.S. Commissioner of Athletics Robin Shelton, the prospective elections manager, voiced an objection to the item. The motion failed in the ensuing vote, as it did not meet the three-fifths majority required to pull an item to committee.

Shelton objected to the task force charter’s deadline timetable, which requires the task force to submit a report no later than week seven of winter quarter and holds that any A.S. recommendations to change UCSD’s voting system take effect no earlier than week five of spring quarter.

According to Eleanor Roosevelt College Freshman Senator Max Harrington, who proposed the task force, the growing movement for the institution of instant runoff voting in state and national elections provided the task force’s inspiration.

“”Originally I … proposed the task force as an instant runoff voting task force,”” Harrington said. “”After several people objected, rightfully, that we should consider other possibilities as well, I expanded it to a more general ‘voting systems’ task force.””

In an instant runoff voting system, voters rank candidates in order of preference and, as in the existing system of plurality voting, if a candidate receives the majority of all votes he or she automatically wins. However, if no candidate receives the majority of the vote, the candidate who received the least votes is eliminated and the votes of those who ranked him or her first are shifted to their next highest-ranked candidate. This is repeated until one candidate has over 50 percent of the votes.

“”I don’t think it’s fair that a candidate can get elected with 37 percent of the vote, as Jesse Ventura did in Minnesota,”” Harrington said. “”This means that the other 63 percent of voters preferred someone else.””

Supporters of instant runoff voting argue that the system ensures true majority rule and eliminates the “”spoiler”” factor that often forces voters to vote for the lesser of two evils instead of the candidate that they truly want representing them. The Green Party has been at the forefront of the campaign for instant runoff voting in the United States.

“”[With instant runoff voting], it is ensured that you can vote for your favorite candidate without fear that you might be helping your least favorite candidate be elected,”” Harrington said.

The A.S. task force will be composed of a majority-elected chair and vice chair, six A.S. senators (one from each college), up to two A.S. cabinet members and up to two at-large representatives. All members of the task force will have voting rights except for the chair, who will vote only in the case of a tie. Ex-officio members of the task force will include the A.S. cabinet, the A.S. senate and the A.S. elections manager.

Instant runoff voting systems have been adopted by the city of San Francisco and the Associated Students of UC Berkeley. Students at UC Davis will vote on instituting the system in their next election.