During their first meeting of the new semester, the Student Senate discussed a potential amendment to the SGA Constitution that would change the way students vote in elections.
Max Zinner, graduate school senator, introduced the bill.
Zinner said the amendment would make elections be decided by an instant runoff system, where voters can rank each candidate, eliminating the need for runoff elections if candidates do not receive 40 percent of the vote.
According to Zinner, this system, which is already in use at Texas A&M, would better represent the student body if a candidate cannot receive 40 percent of the vote, as turnout for runoff elections is generally lower than the general election.
“This is, I believe, a much better way of getting what the students want,” Zinner said.
If approved in the SGA Senate, students would vote on this amendment during SGA spring elections on Feb. 5.
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The system essentially allows voters to rank the candidates from their favorite to their least-favorite all on one ballot.
The new system would require a single candidate receive 50 percent of the vote to win in the first round. After the first round, if no winner is declared, things get interesting.
If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, the candidate who had the least number of first-place votes will be eliminated from the second round.
Once the candidate has been eliminated, the second choice of that candidate's voters will get their redistributed votes in the second round. The process continues until a candidate reaches 50 percent of the vote or there are only two candidates left.
Essentially, the process replaces subsequent runoff elections, which, as Zinner pointed out, often draw less turn out.
And voters don't necessarily have to rank all the candidates.
The system has been put into use in state electoral systems.
Maine became the first state in the nation to utilize ranked-choice voting or an instant runoff voting system in a statewide election. Supporters of the voting method view it as a move toward a more democratic system while opponents say it can be too complicated or logistically confusing to be effective.
Advocates say the system is particularly useful when there are a number of candidates running for the same position, effectively eliminating the so-called "spoiler effect" of voting for a less popular candidates even though that decision could negatively affect a more popular candidate with whom a voter might also align.
Local elections in Maine have used the system before, too, and a mayoral election in 2011 went for 14 runoff rounds.
Maine began using the system when their governor, Paul LePage, won the office with less than a majority of the vote. They put the system into use during primary election in June, and it was used again on congressional ballots in November.
For at least the past two years, SGA elections for president have gone to a runoff.
Zinner said, if passed, the system would hopefully be ready in time for Miss Homecoming elections in fall 2019.
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