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GW Student Body Elections are conducted using ranked choice and plurality at-large voting system. Ranked-choice voting is used for positions where there is only one seat whereas plurality at-large is used for positions where there are multiple seats. Understanding these systems is not only important for candidates, but also important for voters, so that students can cast their ballots in more informed ways.

What Ranked Choice Voting is Not
The aim of ranked choice voting not to elect the candidate with the most "first choice" votes, but the candidate with the most support across the entire student body, including the supporter bases of their opponents. Thus, in contrast with most American electoral systems, a candidate who has a plurality of "first choice" votes (and would thus be the winner of a one-round plurality-based voting system,) may not win the election. This system is also not as simple as assigning a high value to a "first choice" vote and decreasing values to lower ranking assignments and tallying points via a numerical system.

What Ranked Choice Voting Is
Rather than conducting a plurality-based election system or a single-round ranked choice voting system, GW's ranked choice voting system operates in a series of rounds. Each round eliminates one candidate from the running, and reassigns that candidate's votes to each voter's next-ranked candidate. 

For example, take an election with four candidates. Candidate A receives the least "first choice" votes, and is thus removed from the running. Half of candidate A's supporters marked their second choice as candidate B, and the other half marked candidate C. Thus, half of candidate A's votes are reassigned to candidate B, and the other half to candidate C, while candidate D receives none of these redistributed votes. (Given that none of candidate A's supporters marked candidate D as their second choice.) The votes that would have otherwise been wasted on candidate A are redistributed to candidates that the A voter bloc also support. Each subsequent round would repeat this process; whoever had the least votes in this round would be removed from the running, and all of their votes redistributed to the next-best candidate, per their individual voters' preferences. 

There are several somewhat subtle implications of such a system. The first is that even a candidate who receives relatively few votes in the first round, or has a small voter base, is able to win in the end if they can maintain broader (if less fervent,) support among voters. Another significant detail of GW's ranked-choice voting system is that voters are not required to rank all of the candidates. If a student were to only list candidates A and B as their top two choice, (and not list candidates C or D,) that student's ballot would be discounted entirely in the case that candidates A and B were knocked out of the running. Thus, students can rank as few or as many candidates as they choose, which allows students to avoid supporting a candidate should that candidate reach later rounds where 3rd, 4th, or even lower priority votes can be enough to tip the balance. 

The JEC will be releasing further content via this website and via social media to help voters and candidates understand the ranked choice voting system. 

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