Last week, the University of California, Davis held elections for its student senate using ranked choice voting (RCV). Even with sixteen candidates on the ballot this quarter, UC Davis represents just a fraction of the RCV elections held on campuses across California and the US this year. Beyond its already wide-spread use, RCV’s popularity is increasing on California campuses. Last month, UC Santa Barbara’s Associated Student Senate voted unanimously to switch to multi-winner RCV.
RCV is used to elect student governments at colleges and universities all over the US, both big and small. Of the roughly 60 campuses where RCV is used, 16 are in California. This includes internationally renowned institutions like Berkeley, Stanford, and UCLA. Popular support for RCV has endured at California schools because it gives students meaningful choice and promotes a more representative student government.
The UCSB Senate’s adoption of RCV reflects this support. The school has used RCV to elect its executive offices since 2001. Even with the highest student government election turnout among UC schools, UCSB students wanted to do more to invigorate campus democracy. By voting for the Senate using multi-winner RCV, UCSB Gauchos will be able to elect a legislature that better represents their diverse student body.
UCSB activists fought for this change because of their commitment to inclusion and fairness in the way they’re represented. However, these values are not just shared by students. Indeed, this movement may represent the future of voting in California.