February 6, 2004

S.A. Votes Down Election Reform

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A sharply divided Student Assembly defeated a proposal yesterday for proportional voting in the spring S.A. elections by a vote of 6-11 with Dena Ruebusch ’04, director of elections, abstaining.

In a proportional representation election system, voters vote for one candidate in each election with the top three candidates winning the available seats, instead of the current system in which voters cast ballots for each individual seat.

Proportional voting was employed in the fall for the elections of the new student representatives, and, according to several members of the S.A., public reaction was mixed. The defeated bill would have only affected the spring elections, after which elections would revert back to the traditional format, known as plurality voting.

Debate amongst members revolved around the balance between the diversity of S.A. members and the right of voters to vote for candidates for each available seat. Proponents of proportional voting argue that its implementation will yield an assembly that more fully reflects the diversity of the Cornell Community and lessen the chance of one ticket dominating each election as has been the case in years past. Those in favor of the traditional system point out that proportional voting is not used at any level of government in the United States and denies voters the chance to vote for each of their potential representatives.

“[With plurality voting] I think we could have a more diverse S.A., representing more interests and opinions,” said Representative Jason Jendrewski ’05.

S.A. Vice President Stephen Blake ’05 also advocated proportional voting as means of avoiding one ticket dominating an election and giving independent candidates a better chance of winning seats on the Assembly.

“I am hugely in support of it,” said Blake, “I think people need to learn more about it.”

Rubusch, who helped draft the proportional voting bill and who has remained neutral on the issue said, “It has its pros and its cons.”

Other members of the S.A. were vocal in their opposition to proportional representation. New Student Representative Kwami Thomison ’07, who was elected under this fall’s proportional representation system, came out against it, saying, “The number of people that will be representing you should be the number of people you vote for.”

Representative Tim Lim ’06, also president of the Cornell Democrats, opposed proportional representation, fearing that it would lead to more hostile elections and the end of coalitions among candidates.

“This [would] abolish any form of cooperation between anyone