Student Government column

If you log in on Thursday, March 30 to vote in student government election then you might notice something different: Single Transferable Vote (STV) is being brought to campus!

Up until last year, Carnegie Mellon employed the First Past the Post voting system, which elects the candidate with the most votes. Ryan LaPré, cabinet member, constitution advisor to Student Government, and the person who’s been working on this idea for the past year and a half, states “by switching to STV, we are trying to implement a system by which every position or seat is most preferred by the voting body. STV is a representative system, so it attempts to satisfy the largest number of people by accounting for their preferences in the election.”

This coming Thursday, you will be able to numerically rank your candidates of choice by whom you’d most like to see in a particular position. Enlisting someone as your no. 2 choice means that if your first choice didn’t run, they would be your new no. 1. Are there four candidates but you only want to vote for one? List that person as your no. 1 choice, and select “No Confidence” for choices 2–4.

STV is especially influential in Senate voting. In the 2015 spring election, there were 12 candidates vying for eight seats as representatives of Dietrich in the Undergraduate Student Senate. After the votes are in with STV, the person with the least amount of first-choice votes gets eliminated from the race. The ballots that listed this person as their first choice are now reanalyzed and the votes that were distributed to the now-eliminated candidate are reallocated to their second-choice. After reallocation, whoever has the most top-choice votes is ensured a seat. This process of elimination of the lowest-polling and redistribution of votes to voter’s next top choice continues until all eight seats are filled.

The 2015 spring election was actually determined by selecting the eight candidates with the highest voting percentages. What if that ninth candidate was actually a majority of people’s no. 2 choice? The STV system, in this case, would have elected this candidate, facilitating a student Senate where Senators selected are more fully representative of the actual wishes of the student body.

If this is in any way confusing, a tutorial will be accessible on the StuGov elections website to walk students through our new voting system. In addition, I definitely recommend CGP Grey’s video on STV Voting on YouTube (which I relied heavily on to understand the intricacies of this system, despite Ryan’s excellent communication about what STV voting actually was).

As someone who daydreams about accurately representative democracies, I am so excited about this change! And of course, remember to vote on March 30!