New voting method to be used in elections

Saja Hindi // Published March 25, 2008 in The Technician Online
A shortened campaign period followed by a shortened election period brings another new element to Tuesday's Student Government elections this year -- instant runoff voting.

It took $1,800 to hire alumnus Erich Fabricius of Wash Creek Software and former student senator to write the voting software to allow this change to happen.

Instant runoff voting, a voting system some political entities use to avoid runoff elections, is a process where people rank the candidates in order of their preferences. If a single candidate doesn't receive a majority of first rank choices, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and that candidate's votes are spread among the rest of the candidates based on voters' next preferences, until one candidate receives the most votes.

"It's kind of the future of voting if you look at it in a lot of different ways," Adam Compton, sponsor the Student Senate bill to apply IRV, said. "Presidential candidates [Barack] Obama and [John] McCain have endorsed it."

According to Compton, a senior in agricultural business management, several bigger organizations use it as well.

The idea, he said, came from the last Cary mayor race where residents voted with the IRV system. Research by N.C. State assistant political science professor Michael Cobb showed that 72 percent of those who voted preferred this method, Compton said.

Another positive of this new system is it eliminates an extra week of campaigning and money-spending.

"We'd also gotten a strong sense from the student body that they were getting really sick of elections," Compton said.

Elections Commission Chair Andrew Tucker agreed.

"It's going to make the Elections Commission's job easier by cutting out a week of campaigning, assuming there are no issues," Tucker, a senior in political science, said. "We'll have a clear winner Wednesday morning."

One thing the commission has to continue to do though is sort through write-ins, figure out which are serious and which are not and find the different students who go by different names.

"But all in all, it provides a more polished and more easily understood process," Tucker said.

The ballot, Compton said, will say how many candidates that students must rank before the ballot can be submitted.

"If your top choice is not selected, your number two choices becomes your top choice. If they're not selected, it's number three and so on," he said.

The system, Compton said, is unique but fair and allows each vote to count more.

"It does that runoff election right there in one period," he said.

Tucker said he hopes the commission can tabulate the results after voting ends Tuesday at midnight and have the commission announce unofficial winners right after.

The official winners, he said, should be certified by the commission Wednesday night, but due to the Senate meeting, he said the worst case scenario would be that the commission announces final winners Thursday morning.

"Ultimately though, if everybody's in good standing and remains in good standing, the unofficial results will be the same," Tucker said.

The commission just has to certify candidates and make sure the election was fair.

For Senate seats, the election is a little different -- it's by preferential voting, which will allow multiple seats to win the race. But, students will still be ranking each candidate.

"Your top one, two, three are considered ones till you need to go into a runoff," Compton said.