There was a remarkably terrible turnout for student body elections. Over four days, 3,236 people voted, which equates to roughly 7 percent of all eligible voters. Because a majority was not achieved by any candidate, there will be a runoff starting Tuesday.
Christopher Leddy came in second with 25 percent of the vote, and Juan Soltero came in first with 43 percent. 43 may seem like an impressive percentage, but in reality it accounts for a mere 1,391 students. This creates a problem concerning representation.
More than 46,000 students attend USF. The student body president is expected to honestly represent the entirety of this population. If the voter turnout for the runoff election is similar to the original one, the president will be elected by a fraction of an already small number.
The low turnout could be blamed on a number of factors, including student apathy, lack of information and low visibility of on-campus polling locations.
However, regardless of the true cause of the dismal voter turnout, a different voting system could yield a higher quality of representation.
Developed in 1770, the Borda count system allows voters to give different degrees of preference to every candidate on the ballot.
For example, on a ballot with four candidates, voters would assign each candidate a number from one to four, one being their first choice and four being their last. Upon tabulating the votes, the first choice on each ballot is given four points, the second three and so on.
This enables voters to be as sincere as possible with their choices and leads to a more accurate representation of which candidate voters prefer.
The system is not without fault, however. It is open to strategic manipulation by bloc voters who could give a four to their candidate of choice and insincerely give a three to the candidate they believe is least likely to win. In the event of a runoff, their preferred candidate would be up against a much weaker opponent. If voters choose a candidate based on personal relationships rather than a sincere evaluation of his or her ability to represent, then the election is a sham in the first place.
However, if all 3,236 students who participated based their votes on an informed and sincere belief that their candidate is the best, one would be hard pressed to criticize a more representative form of voting.