Electoral Reforms 2014 — An FAQ


The following write-up was given to T5E by the SAC.

Election season 2014 is underway, and this year, the SAC has implemented two significant electoral reforms in the Students’ General Election — Instant Runoff Voting, and the Right to Reject. These reforms are being implemented only in the institute-level elections, and not for hostel secretary positions. This is a handy FAQ to help you understand how these work.

Q: What options do I, a voter, have in these elections?

A: Irrespective of the number of candidates contesting for a post (including unopposed nominations), you will have the following options:

  • Vote for a particular candidate
  • Abstain from election
  • Reject all candidates

Q: In what situation is a candidate rejected?

A: Basically, enough people have to want to reject the candidate, and enough people should cast their vote in the first place. Candidates are rejected if and only if the ‘reject’ votes are more than half of the total votes polled, excluding the people who abstain. Additionally, the total votes polled, again excluding the people who abstain, need to be more than half the strength of the electorate.

Q: Eh, write that mathematically.

Okay. A candidate is rejected if and only if:




Q: Examples, please?

A: Consider a situation where there’s a single candidate, and an electorate with 8000 eligible voters.

We consider three cases:




Votes polled: 4200 Votes polled: 4500 Votes polled: 5000
Votes for Candidate: 1900 Votes for candidate: 2100 Votes for candidate: 3000
Abstain: 300 Abstain: 200 Abstain: 300
Reject: 2000 Reject: 2200 Reject: 1700

Q: This ‘reject’ button sounds really exciting!

A: Yes, it’s a major reform.

But a word of caution: the right to reject has been provided to you, the voter, to be exercised ONLY if you are unsatisfied with ALL the candidates for a particular post. If the reason you do not wish to cast your vote is because you are unaware or unsure about the credentials of the candidate(s), please do not use the reject button — use the abstain button instead. If the candidate(s) is (are) rejected, the post will remain vacant till August 2014 (that’s four months!). A lot of a Secretary’s work is carried out in those four months, and if the post is vacant, that work won’t get done. So use the ‘reject’ button wisely and with discretion.

Q: How did the old system handle elections with more than two candidates?

A: In the old system, first-past-the-post, the candidate with the maximum number of votes is declared elected — whether by 1 vote, 10 votes, or 100 votes. When there are three or more candidates in an election, there is a possibility that none of the candidates get more than 50% of the votes. Consider a scenario with 100 voters and 3 candidates. If candidates A, B, and C get 30, 34, and 36 votes respectively, candidate C will be declared elected by the difference of just 2 votes. More importantly, 64 people did not vote for candidate C, and we don’t know how happy/unhappy they are with candidate C.

Q: How does the new system handle this issue?

A: Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) will be implemented in the Institute Elections from this year onwards to handle such situations. It is an extension of run-off voting, in which (for the example outlined above) a second round of election is conducted between Candidates B and C alone, after eliminating Candidate A who got the least number of votes. By asking voters to rank all the candidates in a preferential order, the IRV system makes it possible to implement run-off voting without conducting a second election.

Q: Show me an example, with numbers.

A: Three candidates stand for an election: A, B and C. The tally of votes is as shown:


If you’re still a little confused, this video should hopefully clear things up.

Note: After the release of the final nominations for Executive Wing, no post has three or more candidates contesting. IRV therefore will not be implemented in these elections.

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