Thoughts on Election Arithmetic

In one week, RNE will hold the fourth in a series of two elections. RPInsider has a quick summary of the calculations which produced this counterintuitive result, but that won’t tell you anything about the perverse axioms used to derive such a nonsensical method of counting.

Current GM and candidate Michael Zwack has written some comments, in which he says:

Together we need to identify issues so we can positively address them.

Oddly enough, we did that already. We’ve already been through the process of violations and sanctions, just last year, with the same candidates. There was a general consensus that the election rules were the problem. One Senator even said, “What were we thinking when we approved them?”

The issues were identified, but no one “positively addressed” anything, and last year’s rules were copied and pasted into this year’s handbook. Same equations, same initial conditions. No one should be surprised by the same results.

The election process needs to be redesigned from scratch, keeping these facts at the center:

  1. The point of elections is to discern the will of the students.
  2. The point of rules is to ensure fairness.
  3. The point of sanctions is to correct unfairness.

This implies that there should be no sanctions for something that does not create an unfair advantage. It implies that sanctions are not primarily punishments or political tools. It implies that they should be proportionate.

It also implies that election results should not be nullified unless there has been massive deception of the student body. Like, say, a candidate who is really an inflatable whale, or something.

The current rules prohibit too many things which do not cause unfair advantages, and they allow sanctions which simply add another layer of unfairness. RNE can issue any penalty it likes for any infraction. You can get all your posters torn down for using your campaign manager’s contact information instead of your own. (That happened two years ago.) You can lose postering rights, which are granted to everyone by the Student Rights and Responsibilities, for postering on the footbridge, which is not even RPI property. You can get your spending quota reduced for putting multiple candidate names on the same poster (though that rule appears and disappears.)

Study the election system carefully, and then ask: is this really a process for discovering the will of the student body? Is the victor its legitimate representative?

At the very least, it’s reasonable to answer “Not entirely.” There has to be something wrong with a system that produces results like “4 < 2″.

Student government has known about this for fifteen years. It is what brought the IOP into being. The problems it causes are obvious. Just look around: there are election posters when you should be studying for finals. And still no one has made elections fair and just.

I’m not even going to explain why this means you should vote for Arthur.

3 Responses to “Thoughts on Election Arithmetic”

  1. Chris says:

    In short, I agree… That’s why I ran, because I’m naive enough to think I can fix it.

    Any rules need to be fair, objectively and specifically defined. The RNE should be forced to present evidence of any infraction to anyone who asks. Charged parties should be allowed to defend themselves before a violation is issued. Specific infractions should have specific punishments laid out in the rulebook, none of this “whatever the RNE feels is appropriate” bullshit. The Honor Code is not a catch all code for “if we think you’re wrong you broke it but we’ll look the other way if you tell a candidate to go die in a fire”".

    Is that too much to ask? I’ll let you know.

  2. K says:

    Chris, I disagree with a lot you are saying.

    “The RNE should be forced to present evidence of any infraction to anyone who asks.”

    They already do. You just need to appeal their decision to hear them present their evidence, the process of which is outlined clearly in the handbook.

    “Charged parties should be allowed to defend themselves before a violation is issued.”

    It doesn’t make sense. It’s like saying that you need to go to court before you get arrested. The only candidates who need to do this systematically violate and abuse the rules.

    I would have to agree with you that the Honor Code needs to be reworked, but your reasoning makes little sense.

    Do I think you know what you’re talking about? I’ll let you know.

  3. Chris says:

    I think your court before arrest analogy is pretty flawed, because I don’t remember ever being assigned my sentence as I was being arrested. The RNE decision assigns punishment as the charge is being brought up, and in the law analogy, one defends themselves before sentencing.

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