OPINION: Despite illusion of fairness, SGA elections are not democratic


As previously reported by the Collegian, Paloma Roman’s campaign for student body president was terminated for a hot minute due to inaccurate expense reporting and other financial tomfoolery. On Tuesday, the Roman-Leverett campaign was put back on the ballot following an appeal.

The reinstatement of a second candidate for the election was seen as a positive by many, since an election for president of the Student Governing Association with only one candidate wouldn’t be democratic at all. There have to be at least two choices so the people get what the majority of them want, right?

Personally, I think that line of thinking is a bunch of malarky.

While the SGA would surely tell you that there are a variety of candidate choices in the primaries and the winner of its presidential election will be who the majority wants, true democracy simply cannot take place when the elections are winner-take-all.

The problem with winner-take-all elections is that they help candidates much more than they help voters.

Almost every member of the voting public has voted for a disagreeable candidate in a political race because their favorite candidate was unlikely to win. I know I have, and all my friends have, too.

The funny thing about it is that “unpopular” candidates are often more popular than the numbers would suggest, but many of their supporters are thinking the same thing: they can’t vote for their favorite because it’s more important to keep their least favorite out of office.

There’s an easy solution to this, though: ballots that let voters rank the candidates by preference instead of picking just one.

Simply mark your candidates from favorite to least favorite with a one, two, three and so on, add up all the numbers from all the ballots and the candidate with the smallest number wins — politicians all like golf, don’t they?

Basing elections on rankings would capture the nuances of the population better and make sure that more people are at least satisfied by the ultimate winner of the candidacy. Everyone gets to pick their favorite and strike out their least favorite at the same time, so everyone wins.

If there’s a better voting system out there and it’s not much more complicated than the winner-take-all system, why isn’t it being used?

The answer is simple: politics.

Winner-take-all elections allow popular, “safe” candidates to stay in power for long periods of time, and ranked voting would allow their dynasties to fall to new candidates who represent the current population better.

This is why political parties are what they are today. Any politician who wants to change the voting system would be hurting themselves and all of their co-workers, so it’s unlikely to ever happen.

I know that SGA elections are very different from elections in real U.S. politics, but many of the lessons learned from our senators and presidents have clearly trickled down to the representatives in the student senate. They know they have power, and they want to keep it.

If the SGA really wants democratic elections that give the students of Kansas State a choice, they should start by giving us a fair choice in the first place.

Kyle Hampel is the reviews and opinion editor for the Collegian and a junior in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

Those words you just read were written by me, Kyle Hampel. I am a 2019 graduate in English. I have strong feelings about barbeque pizza and the Oxford comma. I am a former copy chief, community editor, feature editor, designer and deputy multimedia editor. Beloit, Kansas, is proud to call me their own, along with several other towns I've lived in that aren't as special to me.