Voting System

Academic Council Voting Process

Wellesley uses the single transferable voting system (STV) in Academic Council committee elections.  According to Professor Marion Just, this system was initially recommended by Professor Alona Evans, who was familiar with it as the Australian voting system, in 1969.

The single transferable vote (STV) is a voting method where ranked ballots are used to provide proportional representation by transferring votes from losing candidates. The system provides approximately proportional representation and minimizes "wasted" votes by transferring votes to other candidates who are still in the running.  The terms instant runoff voting, single transferable vote, and ranked-choice voting (among others) are often used to describe these voting methods. When STV is used to elect a single candidate, it is equivalent to instant runoff voting (IRV).

Under STV, electors rank their preferred candidate(s) in order.  An elector's vote for most preferred candidate is initially allocated to his/her most preferred candidate but may, as the count proceeds, be allocated to his/her next most preferred candidate if a first choice is eliminated.  

Single Transferable Vote (STV)

The basic structure of an STV method is relatively simple, and can be expressed with a few steps:

  1. Count the first place votes.  If one candidate achieves a majority, that candidate is declared a winner.  If there is only one position to be filled, that is the end of the selection process.
  2. Transfer votes from one candidate to other candidates:
    • Eliminate the last place candidate.  If there is more than one last place candidate (for example if several candidates received one vote), then randomly select one of the last place candidates (using a random number generator or flipping a coin) for elimination.
    • Examine the ballots for the last place candidate and transfer the first place votes for that candidate to those candidates' second most preferred candidate. 
    • If any ballot lists only one choice, either because other choices have been eliminated or because the voter chose only one candidate, then no vote can be transferred.  (Bulleting is permissible in the Academic Council system.)
    • Recount the the first place votes.  If this step yields the appropriate number of leading candidates (usually 5 in AC elections), then the selection process is complete.
  3. If not all seats have been filled, then go to step 2 again.


Election Rounds

First Preferential Round

Elections with large candidate pools will have multiple rounds of voting. In the first preferential round, a voter's first choice candidate is assigned 5 points, second choice candidate is assigned 4 points, etc.  The five candidates with the highest total of points are then listed on the second preferential ballot.  If there is a tie for fifth place on the first preferential ballot, then we include both of the fifth places candidates on the second preferential ballot (meaning six candidates total on the second preferential ballot).

Second and Single Preferential Round

The second preferential ballot and those elections with a single preferential ballot follow the STV system explained above, transferring votes to achieve the selection of one final candidate.