An Argument for Ranked Choice Voting in a School Election Context

1 Introduction

 

Electoral reform is one of the main goals mentioned by Justin Trudeau (and his Liberal party)’s 2015 federal election platform; the goal has since been abandoned, but the survey (mydemocracy.ca) has communicated a clear message to the Canadian public—Canadians are not satisfied with first-past-the-post voting system. (Canada 2017) On pp. 53 of the report, 62% of the weighted participants were in favor of a ranked-choice system, including 33% strongly in favor, as opposed to only 28% expressing their preference for the current electoral system, with only 17% strongly opposing the ranked choice initiative. There are overwhelming public support for the proposed ranked choice voting initiative in Canada as a whole.  If executed correctly, ranked choice balloting system would substantially improve the power of votes and the voting procedures, as evidenced in allowing voters to have multiple preferences over whom they want to cast their ballots to.

 

2 Methodology

 

The methodology for ranked choice voting is not difficult to understand. In a plurality system, voters only vote for one candidate and the election winner would be the candidate receiving most votes regardless of whether a majority has been reached or not. Under a ranked system, instead of voting for just one candidate, voters can rank the candidates in order of preference. Ballots are counted initially for voters’ first choices. If a candidate wins 50% of the votes, he or she wins the election. If no candidate secures a majority, the candidate placing last in the first-preference ballots would get eliminated, and second preference ballots would be counted and added onto first preference ballots. If still no candidate receives a majority, another round of balloting would continue, and so forth until a majority has been reached.

 

3 Advantages

 

Under this system, voters would be allowed to express multiple preferences, dumping the first-past-the-post (also known as plurality) system of which voters could choose one and only one candidate, voters would be allowed to express a broad amount of preferences, ranking from most preferred to least preferred, effectively eliminating “vote-splitters” to make elections more fair and democratic.

 

4 Disadvantages

 

A ranked choice ballot does not meet satisfy all of unanimity, non-dictatorship, and independence of irrelevant alternatives, which is defined as “if the voters’ rankings of two candidates A and B are the same in two different election scenarios, then the social rankings of A and B must be the same,” (Pacuit 2011) and the addition or removal of candidates between A and B does not affect the ranking of candidates A and B on the social ranking, together An effective solution to this problem is to implement a range voting system, but adopting such system would require an undue amount of burdens and is not optimal for a school election context.

 

5 Implementation

 

A plurality ballot (the balloting system we currently use) would require little alterations in order for it to meet the requirements of a ranked ballot. In fact, on a school ballot, only two simple changes are required to convert it to a ranked ballot. One change is by changing voter ticking box instruction from vote for one to vote for several candidates, another is by changing ballot instruction from vote for one candidate only to rank the candidates according to your preferences.

6 Conclusion

 

Ranked Choice Voting is effective at eliminating vote splitters and would largely put an end to tactical voting. Although it does not prevent vote-splitting from happening (eliminations), on most occasions, votes would count for what they are worth, with ideologically similar camps being represented proportionally in the Student Government, rather than electing candidates representing only one ideological position due to the existence of vote splitters. IRV has obvious weaknesses, as candidates may not necessarily win even if they are indeed preferred by majority of voters, but the benefits IRV brings far outcompetes the potential weaknesses, which is not prevented by retaining first-past-the-post system, it has, and the adoption of IRV is imperative for successfully promoting democracy in a scholastic context.

 

7 References

 

Canada. Privy Council Office. MyDemocracy.ca Online Digital Consultation and Engagement Platform. By Vox Pop Labs Inc. Vox Pop Labs, 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

 

Pacuit, Eric. “Voting Methods.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University, 03 Aug. 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

 

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