GCC Student Senate adopts ranked-choice voting


Staff Writer
Published: 11/18/2020 4:18:55 AM

GREENFIELD – The Greenfield Community College Student Senate has voted to adopt ranked-choice voting, a move the legislative body believes will make for a more democratic and representative process.

“It was smooth and a unanimous vote,” said student Sen. Satya Johnson. “Everyone is excited about it. It will take effect during the next election in January or February of 2021.”

GCC holds its elections online. Johnson said a student adviser has offered to work with someone from Information Technology to “deal with aspects of the online system.” He said he will present an updated PDF of the school’s constitution, which now includes the new method of voting school officers.

“This feels great,” Johnson said. “I hoped this would happen.”

He said people have asked questions and voiced concerns about the voting process on multiple occasions.

“It’s written in a clear and formal way, and it covers all of the key points,” he said. “It was a good proposal.”

As Massachusetts voters considered — and defeated — ranked-choice voting at the polls earlier this month, Greenfield Community College’s Student Senate discussed a similar amendment to its constitution, but decided to wait on voting until its student trustee could review the proposal. That happened recently and the Senate voted Monday.

Johnson proposed the change and presented the reasons why in late October. 

“With ranked-choice voting on the ballot in Massachusetts this year, I thought it would be a good time to change our college’s voting system to a more democratic and representative process,” said Johnson, who began his first term as a student senator this fall.  Johnson drafted the proposed amendment to the Student Senate Constitution.

GCC’s Student Senate consists of eight seats, as well as a president, a vice president and a student trustee. Students would be able to rank all or some of the candidates for a seat on the Senate, or they could tie some.

Johnson said students who run for competitive seats — president, vice president and student trustee — will compete in separate races, but those who run for the other eight seats will compete together on the same ballot using ranked-choice voting. Every student who votes will be allowed to indicate his or her first preference, second, third and so on for every candidate. Write-in candidates will also be allowed and will be ranked.

Johnson said there will be a tally table listing every possible combination of two candidates. For each combination, the tally table will indicate the number of specified voters who prefer the first of the two over the second, who have no preference, and the number who prefer the second candidate over the first.

“A specific formula will be used,” he said. “After the first is chosen, he or she will be taken out of the mix and the remaining voter preferences will be considered.”

Johnson said at least four seats are up for election every semester and student senators serve for a year.

“Sometimes, there’s more than four because someone leaves or transfers or graduates,” Johnson said. “I think this is the best possible system, the most fair. The person with the most votes will now take the first seat and so on.”

He said he feels the new system will be more representative of the student body. Elections at GCC aren’t particularly competitive, very rarely having more candidates than there are seats.

A ranked-choice voting system, he hopes, will open the door for more students to run. The Student Senate currently meets virtually each week.

“This might decrease the struggle to find enough candidates, who currently have to get signatures to run,” Johnson said. “It’ll eliminate that need.

“It’s not likely to make a big difference in the actual outcome of an election, but it has the potential,” Johnson said. “It’s all about caring about democracy and fair representation.”

For more information about GCC’s Student Senate, visit bit.ly/34NjqAT.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.


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