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Nap Time!!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
ASUC Bylaw Genius #1: Failing to Elect an Executive

This is the first of an N-part series where I'll be pointing out how years of careful review by dozens of responsible ASUC Senators have yielded a set of ASUC bylaws of unmistakable genius. This is why some guy skimming through them can find some... uh... oddities. Like today's: Failing to Elect an Executive.

The requirements of this scenario aren't too ridiculous. Essentially, for an executive race, all candidates have to fail to get a place on a majority of ballots (in any position). Recall that we have an Instant Runoff Voting-type thingie, where candidates can be ranked. This means that, even if nobody has majority support, somebody is probably going to appear somewhere on a majority of ballots. But this isn't all that certain, especially if we ever reach a three-party system, where all three parties hate each others' guts.

The relevant bylaws:
16.3 Majority Vote (The Alternative Vote)

1. The Alternative Vote shall be used for the election of Executive Officers.

2. In this method of election, a value of one (1) vote is assigned to the voter's first preference. A candidate is declared elected when his/her vote total is at least a majority of the valid votes. If a voter's preference is on a candidate with the lowest accrued vote total, and no one has been elected, his/her vote is transferred with full value to the next preferred candidate still in the running.

16.4 Tallying the Alternative Vote

1. Each voter's first preference candidate receives one (1) vote.

2. Quota of votes needed to win is


Where N is the number of valid first preference votes.

3. If, after all the votes have been transferred, a candidate achieves the quota, s/he is then elected to that office.

4. If, after all the votes have been transferred, no candidate achieves the quota, each candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated, and s/he shall be ineligible to receive any additional votes.

5. Each vote that belonged to the eliminated candidate(s) transferred to the voter's next preference at full value.

6. If this candidate is one who was previously eliminated, Step 5 is repeated.

7. If the voter has not listed an additional preference or was unable to do so, his/her new vote is exhausted.

8. Steps 3 through 7 are repeated until a candidate achieves quota and is elected.
That last one is a killer, because there's no guarantee that any candidate will achieve quota. If, for instance, three candidates are running, and nobody marks a preference beyond the first, and their vote counts out of 6000 are 2500, 2000, and 1500, no one will reach quota. So the third dude would be eliminated, and no votes transferred. Then the second dude. And then the first dude, because she still hasn't reached quota (3000.5). (A similar thing will occur in the case of a first place tie, but that's pretty unlikely)

And then, since no candidate has achieved quota and been elected, the Elections Council needs to continue these steps, despite there not being any candidates left. This should continue until, I guess, the Earth is destroyed or something.

Now, I don't have a huge problem with having no victor at all if no one can even find a place on a majority of ballots. I guess the Senate can appoint someone as if there's a vacancy. My problem is that the bylaws give no advice whatsoever as to how to proceed. Here's what would happen if Dude 1 was the last candidate eliminated in the previous example.

After Dude 2 is eliminated, Tommaso Sciortino's vote-counting program will report "The election is complete," I believe, because it doesn't distinguish the Senate race from Executive races in the code, beyond the number of offices. Dude 1 and her party will start celebrating. The Elections Council Chair and Attorney General, not quite on top of the bylaws and making the foolish assumption that they made sense, don't catch the fact that Dude 1 didn't achieve quota and wasn't elected, according to the bylaws. Maybe they're distracted because the League of Women Voters representative is throwing out a presidential candidate for drinking, despite there being no real rules against it.

Meanwhile, someone who actually cares about the rules (and therefore, isn't appointed to any rule-keeping position in the ASUC) notices this discrepancy and files a case in front of the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council reads the bylaws, sees they don't appoint a winner, and voids the election results. Dude 1 and her party, realizing that the Judicial Council spends its afternoons plotting on how to take down Dude 1, sue the ASUC. The ASUC Auxiliary and ASUC Attorney, realizing they have a duty to the ASUC, promptly forget that and do everything in their power to get Dude 1 into office.

Dude 1 explains that the Judicial Council was acting illegally because it was upholding the official bylaws, rather than the ones Dude 1 thinks should be the bylaws. By the way, Dude 1 was a senator the previous year, but didn't take any action to correct this bylaw, despite it being pointed out by a local blogger the previous October.

The case drags on until the next semester starts without an official election winner. This is not to say that Dude 1 isn't pretending to be the election winner, because she is, with the support of the Auxiliary. The Senate finally convenes, and tries to find the fastest way to give in, talking to the ASUC Attorney, who checks his legal toolbox, which consists of a white flag and a checkbook. The case is quickly settled, with Dude 1 appointed into office, all the while bitching about how terrible the Judicial Council is, rather than noting the problem with the bylaws.

The next year, nobody fixes this bylaw. Repeat.

posted by Beetle Aurora Drake 10/25/2006 01:32:00 AM #
Comments (1)
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"Maybe they're distracted because the League of Women Voters representative is throwing out a presidential candidate for drinking, despite there being no real rules against it."

Haha, I had kind of forgotten about that.
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