SG proposes amendment to voting system for elections

Katie Balevic

Student Government proposed an amendment to its constitution that would establish a new voting system for elections. The change would eliminate runoffs during elections by implementing a ranked-choice system.

In cases where candidates receive too few votes to advance in a runoff, those votes would be redistributed depending on who the second choice was on each ballot, eliminating student concerns of “wasting” votes on “sure-thing” or “underdog” candidates, said Benjamin Solder, an author of Assembly Bill 17.

“You would potentially be ranking the people on the ballot instead of simply checking a box,” said Solder, a neuroscience junior.  “We’re just giving the students the opportunity to express more of an opinion.”

Solder said the new system could reduce drama during elections.

“Student government causes a lot more drama than how productive we’re being right now, which is a problem,” Solder said. “It’s annoying when we have runoffs, especially when we have three because someone cheated. We draw much more attention to our own reelection than we do to actually benefiting campus.”

Eliminating runoffs would “reduce subsequent drama and negative coverage in The Daily Texan student newspaper,” according to the legislation.

With the new voting system, students are still able to only vote for their top pick if they choose, said Morgan Lawless, computer science and Plan II senior.

“You don’t have to rank the entire ballot,” Lawless said. “You only have to rank as far as you want to. It’s only there for the people that do have those preferences and do want to (keep voting).”

Ranked voting can help increase civic engagement, combat political polarization on the ballot and ultimately give a more representative student voice, Lawless said.

If the voting system is put in place, there will be a learning curve for students, said chief of staff Santiago Rosales.

“We have to figure out … what kind of environment do we have to set up information-wise so that every candidate gets a fair shot and students become more informed,” said Rosales, a finance and government senior. “I think if we were to make these kind of elections successful, it would be contingent on more of an effort to make information accessible to students about all of the different candidates.”

The amendment was passed onto the Rules and Regulations Committee. If the amendment passes at next week’s Student Government meeting, it will be presented to students to vote on during the Spring 2018 campus-wide elections.