UT Student Government should implement an instant runoff system

Daniel Hung

The recent debacle over the SG Executive Alliance election shows that UT should reconsider how it runs its elections. One idea that would lead to more informed student voters and a shorter election cycle is the instant runoff voting system.

Under this system, also known as preferential voting, students would list the candidates in order of preference. The votes would then be tallied up, counting only the first choices of voters. If an executive alliance won a majority of the first-choice votes, then they would win, as in the current system. However, if no candidates won a majority of the first-choice votes, instead of having a runoff at a later point in time between the two candidate teams that received the most votes, the last place alliance would be eliminated, with their votes going to the next-preferred choice on those ballots. This would be done until an alliance reached a majority of the votes.

For example, a recent poll of the Republican presidential primary in Florida has Trump with 35.5 percent, Rubio with 23.8 percent, Cruz with 15.5 percent, and Kasich with 8.8 percent. Under the instant runoff voting system, Kasich and Cruz would both be eliminated. With only Rubio and Trump left, Rubio would win this instant runoff once the ranking preferences for Kasich and Cruz voters were taken into account.

Many voters already have in mind their preferences among all of the candidates running, and this system would take into account such preferences. Additionally, this would encourage many other voters to learn not only about their favorite candidate’s platform, but the platforms of all the candidates.

Instant-runoff elections would also be particularly helpful at UT by removing the need for runoff elections, in which voter participation is generally lower than the initial election. As we have seen in the current executive alliance election, a subsequent runoff and more campaigning may lead to more campaign violations and other problems.

Some may argue that this system may be too complicated for voters, but the voters would not be required to do anything different. Voters would simply have the option of listing the candidates according to their preference and would not be required to rank all the candidates from first to last. By not listing more than one choice, that voter would only not have their vote count towards any of the other candidates if their preferred candidate lost.

Since the executive alliance voting system started at UT in 2009, the races in 2010, 2011 and 2015 have lead to runoffs, with this year’s race likely going into a runoff, too. We can avoid wasting another week of chaotic campaigning by implementing the instant-runoff voting system. UT should join the many universities such as UC Berkeley and Stanford that have adopted this fairer and more efficient voting system.  

Hung is a second-year law student from Brownsville.