Home of the American Heritage student newspaper

The Right Way to Conduct Club Elections

in Opinion by

If you know anyone who has ever competed in any sort of election involving more than two people, there’s no guarantee that the result of their election is fair. The status quo of our elections at Heritage is that, for organizations that select officers by voting, we accept a plurality of the votes cast, a relative majority or simply whoever gets the most number of votes. This is opposed to an absolute majority, which is more than 50 percent. Sometimes, elections can be quite competitive with multiple candidates, as seen in the junior class president elections last year with 11 people running, and by only looking for a plurality, whoever wins might not necessarily deserve to win.

For example, suppose three people are running to become class president. After the votes are counted, it looked like this:

Billy: 29 votes

Bob: 31 votes

Blob: 40 votes

With how we typically conduct elections, for the organizations on campus that do have elections, Blob would have won. However, more people might have actually preferred Bob.

Billy and Bob are nice people who have a lot of mutual friends. Blob has his own clique of friends. The friends of Billy and Bob had to pick their favorite friends (they don’t like Blob) but for the friends of Blob, Blob was the clear vote. Essentially, this is a case of vote splitting: multiple similar candidates increases the chance of winning for a dissimilar candidate. Had Billy not run, those 29 votes would have gone to Bob. With a total of 60 votes, Bob would have won with an absolute majority. But because Billy and Bob torpedoed each other’s chances in the election, Blob was allowed to win the class presidency. He later turned the consolidated democracy into an authoritative regime, resulting in economic sanctions from the United Nations. Great job, plurality voting, great job.

But now, lets consider an alternate reality, a happier reality. The reality of the alternative vote, also known as instant-runoff voting. Let’s look at this alternate reality:


29 First Pick

35 Second Pick


31 First Pick

55 Second Pick


40 First Pick

10 Second Pick

In the election with an instant runoff vote, you would rank candidates in preference. If there were three people, you’d rank your preference of the top two. If there were 10 people, you’d rank the preference of the top five (you really don’t need to know who comes in last place). What we’d do with the numbers is that they’d be multiplied and added to find the rank-sum of each individual. For example:

Jimmy: (29×1+35×2) = 99

John: (31×1+55×2)=141

Sharkeisha: (40×1+10×2)=60

In this case, John, the true man of the people, would have won even though he did not receive the plurality. Instant runoff voting determined that in the case that had there been a runoff by removing either other candidate, John would have received a majority. John would later go on to be the greatest president ever, his term resulting in global nuclear disarmament and world peace. That’s why we need instant-runoff voting.

Student government saw the potential vote splitting in the junior class president election and justly decided to have a run off with five people. Instant runoff voting is the next step. Though we’ll never know for sure if I actually did deserve the class presidency this year, with a few tweaks to the Google form we use for voting and a few spreadsheet calculations, we’ll be able to know beyond a shadow of a doubt for next year.

This isn’t just for Student Government though; it goes for all organizations on campus too. Last year, I was able to conduct elections for our NOH8 organization and decided to manually perform runoff votes. The ultimate winner was a different person than from the person who initially received the plurality. Instant runoff votes make for fairer elections, especially for competitive elections with an abundance of candidates. All clubs and organizations on our campus should adopt the instant runoff voting method. Don’t let Blob and Sharkeisha win.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Latest from Opinion

Go to Top