Voices & Choices

Texas passes amendment to bring ranked choice voting to student elections

Texas passes amendment to bring ranked choice voting to student elections

Two weeks ago, the University of Texas-Austin Student Government passed a constitutional amendment that will allow it to conduct its elections using ranked choice voting. Longhorns went on to approve this amendment in a referendum that garnered overwhelming support with 78 percent of the vote. Now students will be using ranked choice voting for the first time when they head to the polls in the fall semester.

Colton Becker and Mehraz Rahman won this year's executive alliance race and will be the next Student Body President and Student Body Vice-president, respectively. The winning ticket received the highest number of votes in the history of the university -- 8,250 -- tallying 56 percent of the vote.

In any case, future candidates and the student body will be both excited and relieved for its new voting system after needing three elections to pick its new executive alliance.

The first election was nullified following an appeal to the Student Government Supreme Court. In its decision, the Supreme Court determined a campaign moratorium on the Guneez-Hannah alliance had been wrongfully issued and thus invalidated the results. The second election led to a runoff since UT requires the winning executive alliance to receive a majority of the vote. If no candidate receives a majority, a runoff election is held in which the top two candidates run. Thus candidates have to campaign again and voters must return to the polls again. These types of runoffs usually create a concern for low voter turnout due to students losing interest after the first round of voting.

Conversely, ranked choice voting creates a single, more representative and higher turnout election. That’s why this voting system is often called “instant runoff voting.” In this context, ranked choice voting is more voter-friendly and can save the campaigns and the student government the costs and time of running a second election. This similar motivation led to Wheaton College and myriad universities throughout the United States to adopt ranked choice voting.

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