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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How Does the Voting Method Work?

It appears that some people are not clear on how the voting method works for the Alumni Board elections. An Alumni Board member gave me this explanation:
The voting method is not a weighted voting process (like a system where there are x points for Rank 1 and y points for Rank 2). Instead it is a preferential voting system which favors the first preferences of voters and attempts to find a consensus candidate. It is not a perfect system, but it is better than a system based on which candidate receives a plurality of votes.

Ballots are counted and are put into candidate piles based on their #1 preferences. The candidate pile with the smallest number of #1 votes is eliminated, and all of the ballots in that smallest pile get redistributed among the remaining piles based on their #2 preferences. Then the piles are recounted, and again, the smallest pile is eliminated and redistributed to the other piles.

To illustrate:
3 ballots with A as #1 choice, X as #2
3 ballots with B as #1, X as #2
1 ballot with C as #1, X as #2, A as #3

-3 piles get created based on #1 preferences: a pile of 3 ballots for A, a pile of 3 ballots for B, and a pile of 1 ballot for C
-take the smallest pile (the C pile) out, because it is the smallest pile. Go down the ballots in the C pile and redistribute the ballots. Here, there is no X pile but there is an A pile. Thus, the ballot's #2 preference for X can't be honored, but the ballot's #3 preference for A can. Thus, the one ballot from the C pile goes to A.
-A wins the election over B, 4 ballots to 3 ballots. X loses even though he is a consensus candidate between the A and B supporters.

An extra wrinkle present in the current election is that there is not just one open chair position, but three open chair positions. In this situation, the above process of making piles and eliminating piles continues until three piles are left. Those last three piles are the winning candidates.

This method sometimes creates an odd situation. Let's say that 90 people vote in the exact same manner: #1 preference for A, #2 for B, #3 for C. Let's say that 5 people vote #1 for X and 5 people vote #1 for Y. When counting the votes, piles get created for #1 candidates, and here, there are three piles (an A pile, an X pile, and a Y pile), and since there are only three piles, A and X and Y win the three chair positions. B and C, the two other top candidates for the overwhelming majority of voters, don't get elected. Hope this helps, let me know if you have any questions.