Reporting and Design by Naomi Karyamsetty
Are you a concerned member of the student body, wondering about the upcoming institute elections scene? Are you skeptical about the elections, maybe feeling like there’s no point in exercising your right? Do you even know insti has elections? If you answered ‘yes’, ‘yes’ and ‘no’, or a combination thereof, I think you should read this article. (But then I wrote it—I think everyone should read it.)
(Warning: jargon-intensive sentence ahead.) The Institute General Elections is an annual event where the general student body (GSB) elects representatives to the Executive Council (EC, insti-wide representatives) and the Student Legislative Council (SLC), which consists of representatives from each department and hostel. (Phew. Insti obviously has a thing for contractions.)
– Candidates: bit.ly/InstiNominations
– Manifestos: bit.ly/InstiManifestos
– SEC Campaign Rules: bit.ly/ElectionRules
If you see any rules being broken, tell T5E on the Anonymous Tip Line: bit.ly/T5EAnonymousTipLine
Important Dates and The Election Process
Elections to hostel councils have been postponed—you can read about that here—but elections to other institute-wide posts will be conducted on Wednesday, 14th March 2018. Voting will be carried out in the messes (Nilgiri, Himalaya, Vindhya) and CRC with fixed timings (to be decided). You are strongly encouraged to exercise your franchise and participate in this wonderful democratic exercise. The following options are available to you:
- Vote for your preferred candidate.
- Abstain from voting (in which case you will be considered as not having voted for that particular post), or
- Reject all candidates, the (in)famous ‘None of the Above’ option (which means you think no candidate is fit for the post).
‘There is no use,’ I hear you say. ‘Candidates and votes are determined by unfair processes far beyond our control.’ In which case, I reply, use that beautiful red reject button. You see, a candidate, even if unanimous, cannot be declared winner if the ‘Reject’ votes are more than 50% of all non-abstain votes and a minimum of 50% of the total electorate has voted. In addition, instant-runoff voting is followed for posts where there are more than two candidates, so instead of strategically casting your vote, you can vote for the candidate you genuinely believe is better. (More on this towards the end of this article.)
Every candidate has prepared a one-page manifesto and a supporting feasibility report, containing the initiatives they propose to implement. You can access these at the Office of the Dean (Students) website, after you use your LDAP credentials to log in. Candidates are allowed to campaign—convince the voting population why they should be elected—from 1st to 12th March. You might, therefore, run into tense people dressed in formals outside your mess or in your hostel quadi. You can also find out more about the Executive Council candidates (what are these? see below) by attending the soapboxes, where candidates present their manifestos and face questions from each other, the current Executive Council members, and students in general.
Candidates are allowed to campaign from 5pm to 11pm on weekdays and 10am to 11pm on weekends, but in-hostel campaigning is not allowed after 10pm. Candidates are not allowed to use PA systems, pamphlets, or electronic means of campaigning. The only exception to the latter is the SECC-mediated release of video manifestos and posters on digital and printed notice boards, as well as a maximum of two emails per candidate, circulated through s-mail.
Boring Figures about the Candidates
The list of final nominations can be found here.
The elected positions to the SLC (Student Legislative Council) are:
- One Department Legislator, or Branch Councillor, from each department, elected by all students of the department.
Vacant: Biotech, EP and Management Studies.
Uncontested (one candidate): Chemical, CS, Elec, Meta, Ocean Engineering, and Physics
Contested: All other departments have two candidates.
- One Research Legislator per department, elected by that department’s M.S. and Ph.D scholars.
Vacant: Chemistry, ED, EP, Math, and Ocean Engineering
Uncontested: All departments except BioTech
- Four M.Tech Legislators, elected by all M.Tech students.
There are six candidates for this post.
Hostels are represented in the SLC by Hostel Legislators, elected by residents of each hostel. Hostel Legislator elections will take place next semester during Hostel Council Elections.
The SLC is presided over by the Speaker, who will be elected in a subsequent election next semester by the members of the SLC.
The Executive Council consists of the following posts:
- To be elected by all students: Students’ General Secretary (SGS), Hostel Affairs Secretary (HAS), International and Alumni Relations Secretary, Co-Curricular Affairs Secretary (CoCAS), Sports Secretary, Cultural Affairs Secretary (Literary) and Cultural Affairs Secretary (Arts) (collectively known as CulSecs).
- To be elected only by undergraduate, M.Tech, M.Sc, MBA students: Academic Affairs Secretary (AAS)
- To be elected only by M.S. and Ph.D students: Research Affairs Secretary (RAS)
The responsibilities of each Executive Council post can be found on pages 25-30 in the Students’ Constitution.
The candidates for SGS, I&AR Secretary, AAS and both CulSec positions are unanimous. There are two candidates each for Sports Secretary, CoCAS and RAS, and a rare three-way contest for HAS.
Other elected positions are:
- Seven M.Tech Placement Cores, elected by all M.Tech students. There are thirteen contestants for this post.
- One Research Councillor per department, elected by that department’s M.S. and Ph.D scholars. There is one candidate each for Aerospace, Applied Mech, CS, Mechanical Engineering and Physics, while posts for other departments remain vacant.
Preferential Voting: Better Reflecting the Majority Opinion
When there are more than two candidates for an elected position, the result can be different depending on the counting mechanism followed. Knowing how this works is especially relevant in context of the three-candidate race for the Hostel Affairs Secretary. Insti elections follow a system known as the instant runoff, preferential voting, or alternative voting system, which works as follows:
When casting their votes, voters do not simply indicate a preference of one out of three. Instead, they rank all three candidates in preferred order. If more than 50% of voters reject all candidates, no candidate is declared the winner. Otherwise, this is the procedure followed: The ‘Reject’ votes are first removed. After this, if no candidate obtains a 50% majority, the candidate with the least votes is removed from the running, and their votes are redistributed to other candidates based on the voters’ second preferences. This process is repeated until the required majority is reached
This is a better system than, say, the first-past-the-post system, where the candidate with the largest vote share wins. For example, if Candidate A wins 40% of seats, B wins 35% and C wins 25%, Candidate A wins via the first-past-the-post system. However, A was preferred only by 40% of the voting population. If B and C have similar manifesto points, and if almost all C voters prefer B over A, this result will be unsatisfactory to more than half of the voters. In addition, if popular pre-Election Day gossip is that C is highly likely to lose, and camp C happens to be vigorously anti-A, C voters might strategically shift camp to vote for B just to avoid A coming to power.
However, through the preferential vote system, voters need not engage in strategic voting, but can reflect their true preference in the polls. C, having the least votes, is eliminated from the running, and the number of C voters who prefer B are added to B’s tally (and likewise for A), ensuring a result that better reflects the preference of the majority.
If you’d like to find out more about IIT-M’s student government and mechanisms, you can read this T5E article, written way back when the SLC was called the Student Affairs Council. This article is a convenient summary of the Students’ Constitution.
Updates and Corrections:
The second and third graphics were changed due to errors in data.
Also,in the Important Dates and Election Process section ; “You see, a candidate, even if unanimous, cannot be declared winner if the ‘Reject’ votes are more than 50% of all non-abstain votes. Also, a minimum of 50% of the total eligible electorate will need to have voted for every post.” was changed to “You see, a candidate, even if unanimous, cannot be declared winner if the ‘Reject’ votes are more than 50% of all non-abstain votes and a minimum of 50% of the total electorate has voted.”
Apologies for the same.