The state of our student government is in crisis. At the end of this Fall 2011 election, ASUCD will undoubtedly be dominated by one campus slate, BOLD. Six out of seven current candidates are BOLD. With six seats open, they are guaranteed AT LEAST five seats. BOLD slate members currently hold four out of the remaining six seats on senate. Thus, BOLD is assured nine senate seats and an overwhelming 3/4 majority.
Students around campus must ask: how can a single slate represent the diverse needs of the entire campus student body? And, how has BOLD accomplished such a great feat of securing nine senate seats? This answer is within the vote counting system.
Currently, elections are conducted through the choice voting system also known as single transferable vote (STV). This system creates a threshold number of #1 votes that each candidate must reach to get elected. However, after a candidate reaches this threshold number and secures a seat, all surplus #1 votes for the candidate are redirected to a voters #2 candidate. The redirection of votes continues until all six winning candidates reach the threshold number. In theory, this system is meant to be the fairest, allowing for proportional representation. But campus slates, being knowledgeable of this system, have realized the advantage it gives to groups of students that run together.
If one can successfully organize students to vote a slate #1-6, then once the #1 candidate from a slate reaches the threshold, the #2 candidate will receive all of their leading slate members excess votes. So when individuals run together and organize students to vote for them as a group, they are purposefully aiding each other by helping to redirect their votes to their slate members after they meet the threshold.
I do not wish to attack BOLD because they are not the only slate that has benefited from this system. We have seen many slates pass through our ASUCD: LEAD, ACT, GO, JAM and more.
But, having freethinking “individuals” comprise a slate is NOT equitable to being inclusive of diverse perspectives and backgrounds. Yes, each senate candidate is an individual that can think independently and (hopefully) make fair and objective decisions. But, don’t students run on slates because they share similar ideas and goals? If not, then one plausible explanation could be because an election slate gives an advantage to all of its members.
The only method of changing the election process is through the ASUCD Senate. With slates generally winning the majority of senate seats each election, I can only assume that senate members favor the current voting system.
From one student to another, I advise to not vote any slate #1-6 in the future; only choose candidates you believe in and candidates you feel will represent you. Otherwise, campus slates that can successfully organize students to only vote for their slate will continue to dominate in elections and consequently dominate ASUCD.
CAMERON BROWN is a senior economics major and concerned student.
If you want to share you concerns or counterarguments with him, contact him at email@example.com.
Though this student’s concerns about slate power in student government clearly has merit, he is mistaken about the reasons for it. STV voting systems do not encourage a smaller number of slates, in fact they provide the greatest benefit to independent candidates and smaller slates. In a block voting election the effects of slate power would be even worse. You can go back and run the data yourself by looking at similar elections in the past (see Winter 2008 elections on Davis wiki) where lead would have taken all six seats under a block vote system.
The real reason is the election spending rules that allow six candidates to pool resources and spent $1500 on an election and then split the costs for purposes. Each candidate in a slate gets there name out 6X as much for the same shown cost on an expenditure report. This soft money system needs to be fixed. However, with slate domination the only way to correct this is through initiative as the senate would never approve this.
So, do something about Mr. Brown and other concerned students.
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