The Association of Amherst Students (AAS) senate voted to change the current voting system to ranked choice voting (RCV) for all elections on Nov. 17. Under the proposed amendment, students would rank each candidate from first to fifth place, and the election would proceed under a set of runoff rounds during which votes are transferred by preference until a candidate wins more than half of the total votes for the position. The amendment was passed by a vote of 23 for the measure, one against and one abstention. For the next seven days, students may contest the amendment by submitting a petition to the chair of the Elections Committee with the signatures of 10 students. Absent a petition, the AAS may pass the amendment with a majority vote at the next meeting in the spring 2020 semester.
RCV would replace the previous majority vote system if passed. Under the majority vote system, which is currently used in the executive branch and judiciary council chair elections, candidates must win over 50 percent of the first-rank vote to win. If no candidate received this majority in the first election, then a run-off election between the top two candidates would be held. The candidate with the most votes in the run-off election wins.
For past senate elections, the eight candidates that received the most votes became the eight class senators. Similarly, the three judiciary council candidates that received the most votes were elected. In the case of a tie, a second runoff election would be held to determine the seats.
Under the proposed RCV system, in the case that no candidate wins more than half the votes, automatic runoff rounds will be run by the Elections Committee. In each automatic runoff round, the candidate with the fewest first-rank votes will be eliminated, and their votes will be redistributed to non-eliminated candidates. Students will not be able to mark candidates as the same rank. Write-ins will be allowed, but they must be ranked.
The RCV system will also be used for multiple winner elections such as student Senate races. The system will be similar to the single winner election system except in the case that more than five candidates run, students will be able to rank the number of candidates up to the number of seats. The majority threshold will be determined by the formula 100 / (n + 1), in which “n” is the number of seats available.