No Confidence confusion warrants second CMU Senate election

Sarah Gutekunst Apr 9, 2017

At Wednesday’s ratification meeting following this year’s student government elections, Student Senate voted 9–10–2 not to ratify the results of the Senate elections, upholding that the Elections Board did not communicate with Student Senate during the elections process, as they are constitutionally required. The results for the Student Government Executive positions were ratified.

According to the Student Body Election Rules, “If the number of ‘no confidence’ votes exceeds a simple majority of votes cast for a position, then there shall be a vacancy in that position.” As a result of the rule in this election, “no confidence” received enough votes to oust several candidates.

Most notably, the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences was left with only four of its nine seats filled, despite there being nine candidates who ran. The College of Engineering only filled five of 12 seats, despite there being nine candidates who ran.

Some voters are concerned that this result can be attributed to a mishandled transition to a single transferable vote system (STV).

“STV allows voters to rank their preferred candidates and have their votes transfer as candidates are eliminated or elected. This leads to approximately proportional representation and avoids the spoiler effect of splitting votes between similar candidates,” explained junior electrical and computer engineering major Devin Gund, who serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Business Affairs as well as Senate’s representative to the Elections Board. He was largely responsible for implementing the change to STV.

“I can say with full certainty that the single transferable vote system was not the cause of this outcome,” Gund maintained. “STV resulted in fairer elections than the previous first-past-the-post system. For example, the ability for voters to rank their preferred candidates meant that the election for Vice President of Finance ended with a winner preferred by a majority of the student body to any other single candidate, which would not have occurred in the previous system.”

The issue with the voting, however, seems to have been more to do with the language used on the ballot than the STV system itself. The ballot instructions may have misled voters about the significance of voting “no confidence” as opposed to leaving the remainder of the ballot blank.

Gund reported that the language on the ballot was approved by the Student Government Executive Committee, consisting of the Student Body President, Vice President, Vice President for Finance, Vice President of Organizations, Senate Chair, and the Graduate Student Assembly President. It was not approved by the Student Senate.

The Student Body Election Rules state that, in the event of a failed ratification, there should be another election within 10 days. Polls will reopen at 10 a.m. this Friday, April 14, until 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 18. Online voting will be at cmu.edu/studentvote, and physical polling locations will be open 2–4 p.m. on Friday and 4–6 p.m. next Monday outside of the Cohon Center.