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BSG to adopt ranked-choice voting for future elections

November 30, 2018

On Wednesday at Bowdoin Student Government’s (BSG) weekly meeting, the majority of students voted to adopt ranked choice voting in future elections. The proposal was brought forward by Vice President of Student Government Affairs Amber Rock ’19.

Maine uses ranked choice voting for primary and federal elections. BSG’s proposal describes ranked choice voting as a system “where voters can rank their preferred candidates and, if a majority is not reached, the candidate with the lowest number of first choice votes is removed from the ballot, and their votes are allocated to their second choice, if applicable, until a majority, rather than a plurality is reached.”

Representatives had to decide whether students should be permitted to rank all candidates or only three of them. Some argued that one problem with ranking all candidates is that it would lead students who are unfamiliar with all the candidates to rank the candidates they don’t know in the order they are listed, which would unfairly skew the results. Others argued that limiting the ranking to three wouldn’t be fair to the students who are well-acquainted with all the candidates
and would want to rank all of them. Rock pointed out that, under the option of ranking all the candidates on the ballot, the less-informed students would have
the option of selecting just one candidate. Students would not be forced to rank all the candidates. The majority then voted in favor of giving students the option to rank all candidates.

Potential softwares for implementing ranked choice voting were briefly discussed, with the options being Blink, a student-created software or a third-party software that BSG would need to fund. Although Blink was used for this year’s elections, officers suggested that future use with ranked choice voting could be problematic, since Blink doesn’t randomize the order of candidates listed, which could lead less informed students to rank the candidates as they appear, unintentionally favoring candidates higher in the alphabet. In future meetings, BSG plans to further discuss the logistics of the new system.


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