Council reaffirms runoff voting

    The A.S. Council reaffirmed legislation to implement single runoff voting at their Feb. 11 meeting following a successful bid to overturn a presidential veto of single runoff legislation.

    A.S. President Jeremy Paul Gallagher vetoed the legislation on Feb. 6 because of concerns that voter turnout might be drastically reduced by the new voting system. However, the council overturned the veto with a final vote of 15-6-1.

    Under the single runoff system, a general election will be held from Monday through Wednesday during the second week of spring quarter. If a candidate fails to win a majority of the vote, then a runoff election between the two top candidates will be held on Thursday and Friday.

    “”I vetoed the rapid runoff elections because I didn’t think they we’re in the best interest of the student body,”” Gallagher said. “”My primary concern was the possibility of a huge lack of voter turnout.””

    Some senators expressed that the runoff system is the fairest choice of election method.

    “”It’s easy for us to cheat on our exams, it’s easy for us to steal candy from children. That doesn’t mean we should do it,”” Eleanor Roosevelt College Junior Senator Carol Freire said. “”I think the right thing to do is to go with the [runoff] system.””

    Debate on the council floor was complicated by a separate item of immediate consideration to change the election method back to a simple plurality system.

    Thurgood Marshall College Senior Senator and Senate Chair Sierra Catcott submitted the plurality legislation.

    “”People don’t want to vote twice,”” Catcott said. “”I think it’s as simple as that.””

    Two camps quickly developed on the council. Supporters of regular instant runoff, which StudentLink programmers have said will not be feasible to implement in time for this year’s elections, and supporters of plurality voting, which has been used in past elections, were almost equal in number.

    “”I think having [students] come out once or twice is okay,”” Chair of Student Council at Eleanor Roosevelt College David Goodwin said. “”You still have the right to go and vote.””

    Gallagher argued that voter turnout is directly tied to the number of candidates running in an election. Because the runoff elections would have either two or zero candidates per office, Gallagher predicted that voter turnout during the runoff will be low.

    While remaining neutral on the election method, Vice President Finance Eric Webster told the council that having a three-day period to pass a fee referendum is not enough time to get the required minimum number of votes.

    “”I’m not planning on writing a fee referendum under the runoff scenario,”” Webster said. “”It’s not worth it trying to push something that doesn’t stand a chance.””

    Another aspect of the debate centered on college council elections, which usually coincide with A.S. elections.

    With the exception of the Student Council of Eleanor Roosevelt College, no college councils have decided to change their elections bylaws to accommodate runoff voting.

    “”It is irresponsible and lacking foresight of the council to pass a voting system knowing that the college councils are going to have to scramble to either change or adopt or adapt to something that will go along with A.S.,”” Marshall Sophomore Senator Kate Pillon said. “”The college councils have neither the time … nor the money to run their own elections.””

    After thirty minutes of debate, the council originally failed to reach the two-thirds majority required to overturn the veto with a vote of 11-11-1. A motion to reconsider the item ended in the exact same vote.

    The council also failed the plurality legislation, which only required a majority, with a vote of 9-11-1. The council voted to reconsider the item, but failed it again with a vote of 10-12-0.

    Because the presidential veto of the single runoff system included key parts of the election bylaws and because the council failed to adopt the plurality legislation, the elections bylaws were left in a temporary state of disarray. At one point, Gallagher told the council that if nothing was adopted, there would be no A.S. election.

    The council then suspended a bylaw which prohibits reconsidering an item more than once so that they could vote on the elections legislation again.

    For the third time, the council failed to reach the required minimum to overturn Gallagher’s veto with a vote of 13-9-1.

    Following more debate, the council also failed to pass the plurality legislation with a vote of 9-12-1.

    Apparently at an impasse, Catcott announced that she would change her vote to allow the veto to be overturned so that viable elections bylaws could be produced. Catcott was joined by other senators who reluctantly agreed to support the veto overturn for the sake of having an election.

    “”We’re going to be the bigger people here and do what’s best for students, but I’m not happy,”” Catcott said.

    Pillon, another staunch supporter of a plurality voting system, also decided to change her vote.

    “”I want to make it clear that I’m not changing my opinion,”” Pillon said. “”But as I’ve stated, I always try to act in the best interest of the students. It’s better to have an election system than no system at all.””

    Upon the fourth consideration of the item, the required two-thirds majority to overturn the veto was met and the single runoff system was left intact.

    The deadline for the final decision on the election method was the Feb. 11 A.S. Council meeting, according to A.S. Elections Manager Tom Chapman.

    The filing period for this year’s election begins on Feb. 17. After that date, changes to the elections bylaws will not take effect until the following election.

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