Students to vote on process change

Jens Krogstad

Students will decide today and Thursday if the Minnesota Student Association’s presidential elections should use instant runoff voting.

The proposed system would allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference, although they would not be required to do so.

If approved, it is unclear how instant runoff voting will affect next year’s presidential elections.

Minnesota Public Interest Research Group contends the current “winner-take-all” system stifles democracy. The group put the referendum on this year’s ballot to allow instant runoff voting.

The MSA constitution states that once an amendment is on the ballot, it is effective once it receives a majority vote.

But the All-Campus Elections Commission Rules specify that all referenda are nonbinding.

MPIRG members said instant runoff voting is more representative of voters’ wishes.

“The main reason you push for instant runoff voting is it makes the elections more representative of what the entire electorate wants,” said Shaun Laden, an MPIRG member.

Under the current system the candidate with the highest percentage of votes wins.

Instant runoff voting only takes effect if the winning candidate receives less than 50 percent of the vote.

If that happens, the candidate with the least amount of first-preference votes is eliminated from the ballots and the votes are tallied again. The process is repeated until a candidate with a majority of votes wins.

Critics of instant runoff voting said it is unconstitutional.

“I think it’s very undemocratic,” said Amanda Hutchings, MSA legislative affairs chairwoman. “It completely obliterates the one person, one vote ideal.”

Several MSA presidential candidates have spoken out against the idea.

Bob Gindorff, Mike May and Tom Zearley oppose it, while Ashley Sierra, Jason Will and Brian Adamovich support it.

Candidates who oppose the amendment said they will support it if the students do.

MPIRG members said the issue is not partisan, but MSA President Eric Dyer said he believes it is.

The Republican-controlled State House defeated a bill last month that would have allowed Roseville, Minn., to use instant runoff voting in a city council election.

On campus, the University DFL officially endorsed instant runoff voting last fall, said Austin Miller, the group’s president.

MPIRG originally approached MSA about the amendment last fall, though MSA Forum member Josh Colburn said MPIRG never spoke to the Forum about it.

“A lot of people would have appreciated it if MPIRG would have approached more student government representatives,” he said.

Laden said they approached Hutchings, a College Republican, and Martin Andrade, MSA Forum speaker and Campus Republican, about the issue.

“We didn’t get a good reception,” Laden said.

He said his group then decided to collect signatures from 10 percent of the undergraduate student body, which would allow the measure to be voted on by students via referendum, according to the MSA constitution.

Zearley, who is also MSA facilities and housing chairman, criticized the way MPIRG put the initiative on the ballot. He said collecting the signatures does not mean 10 percent of the students support it.

“Students will sign anything without reading it,” he said during last week’s presidential debates. “I question how many students understood what they signed.”