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USAC votes to keep single transferable vote system

By Cody Geib

March 2, 2011 12:56 a.m.

Undergraduate student government officers voted 0-8-2 Tuesday night against some proposed changes to the election code, with two councilmembers absent.

The Election Board had proposed changes on Feb. 15 in hopes of making the election process for general representatives clearer and shortening endorsement hearings from three days to one. The Undergraduate Students Association Council did not vote on the latter proposal.

With eight votes against this proposal, USAC kept the current single transferable vote system. It decided against the proposed plurality system, a more direct election method.

Under the current system, candidates must meet a quota of votes to be elected. If a candidate receives more than the quota, those ballots are reallocated to the voters’ second and third preferences.

The proposed plurality system would not redistribute the votes. Instead, the three candidates with the most votes would win.

One concern that arose with the proposed plurality system was that it could have made it more difficult for less well-known candidates to gain office, and would lead to the dominance of one slate.

Slates are groups of candidates who combine their resources and run on similar platforms, comparable to political parties. Bruins United and Students First! are two such slates at UCLA.

Under the plurality system, if students vote based on slate, the election results would be skewed to favor a single slate, said Patrick Ahrens, Election Board chair and a fourth-year political science student.

“(Single transferable vote) ensures that minority student opinion is expressed in student government,” he said.

President Jasmine Hill, along with other councilmembers, expressed concern about maintaining a diverse representation in the undergraduate government.

She said the single transferable vote system protects this diversity and ensures that independents have a chance of winning ““ something that the plurality system does not ensure to the same extent.

Some members mentioned the significance of diversity in different forms, from ethnicity to political preferences to student interests.

“Plurality voting tends to favor a one-party system,” said Emily Resnick, one of three USAC general representatives. “I think there is a great benefit to having diversity in the general representative office.”

During the meeting, Facilities Commissioner JC De Vera said general representatives reach out to all parts of campus life, and keeping the single transferable vote system would be the best way to allow that.

Yet the current single transferable vote system has disadvantages.

“As a first year … I was confused by the general representative system,” said Matt Spring, a general representative. “The bigger issue is voter education.”

Hill said she does not think the single transferable vote system is ideal, but she believes the council made the better choice between the two options. She said the next step is making sure students are more aware of how the system works.

“Since people are allowed to rank all the candidates that are running, they need to know what that means,” she said.

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