Ultra Vires


Graduation Awards Should Switch to a Ranked-Vote

3Ls shouldn’t have to risk vote-splitting

The SLS should switch graduation awards to a ranked voting system. Specifically, an instant-runoff vote, where the candidate receiving the fewest votes is steadily eliminated and votes reassigned until one candidate has a majority of votes. This would minimize the need to vote strategically to prevent vote-splitting under the current First-Past-the-Post voting method.

Before I go on, I would like to very clearly state some disclaimers. I am aware of the potential optics of writing an article criticizing the voting system after graduation award results have come out. Further, I was nominated for both Valedictorian and the John Willis Leadership Award.

I hope fervently that no one interprets this article as my being frustrated at the result or wanting to undermine its legitimacy. Kent Roach, Dana O’Shea, Leslie Anne St. Amour, Martha Shaffer, Yasmin Dawood, and Waleska Vernon are excellent, deserving winners. Their contributions to the law school go above and beyond that of their peers and colleagues and I am happy that they are being recognized. I am not writing this because I think the results should have (or even would have) been different.

I am writing this because I found voting for the graduation awards to be a harrowing process. There were so many candidates: 16 for Valedictorian, 21 for the John Willis & Mewett, 23(!) for Hail & Farewell. I do not know if this is in line with past years, but with so many deserving candidates, it makes choosing a single person to vote for a very difficult task. 

It is made even harder when one takes into account possible vote-splitting and not wanting to vote for a candidate that you feel cannot win. We should be able to vote without needing to consider who other students are voting for. 

First-Past-the-Post combined with numerous candidates also leads to the possibility of winners being chosen with very small percentages of the total vote. Regardless of whether this is an actual problem or merely an optics problem, it is a problem.

I know that the voting method is given by SLS bylaw and not the discretion of the Chief Returning Officer. The SLS should adopt an instant-runoff voting system for graduation awards (indeed, for all positions, ideally.) 

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