The recent Class Council election results are counter-majoritarian. Winners in four different elections won with less than 50 percent of the vote, due to the plurality system that the Bowdoin Student Government uses.
Most egregiously, a supermajority (73 percent) of first years voted for a candidate other than Wilder Short ’22, their new president. Steven Xu ’22 was elected vice president with less than a fifth of the vote. These are not representative or fair outcomes.
The BSG’s constitution says it “stands on campus as the democratically-elected, autonomous representative of the Student Body and receives its authority from those whom it serves.” If class councils are important enough to fill by election, and they receive their authority from those whom they serve, the outcomes should fairly represent the will of the students.
BSG should consider ranked-choice voting, which promotes winners with broad support. In this system, voters rank candidates according to their preference. If a candidate has a majority of first-choice votes, she wins. If no candidate has a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest number of first-choice votes is eliminated, and the votes of his supporters move to their second-choice candidates. This process continues until a candidate has majority support. This process gives voters a greater say in elections and ensures the election of candidates who have broad support, rather than broad opposition.
This year, Maine became the first state to use ranked-choice voting in a statewide election. Bowdoin’s student government should follow suit.
Samuel Lewis, Class of 2019