The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday December 3rd

Christy Lambden vetoes runoff bill on last day in office

On his last day in office, Lambden vetoed a bill which would have implemented instant runoff voting for student body president elections. Under this method, voters rank candidates in order of preference, eliminating the need for runoff elections.

Zach Ferguson , a third-year law student and Student Congress representative, has presented two versions of the bill to Student Congress, both of which were vetoed by Lambden.

They are the only two bills that Lambden has vetoed in his tenure, said former Speaker of Congress Connor Brady.

“I don’t mind that it was vetoed,” Ferguson said. “I was more concerned that it was vetoed at the very last minute. It wasn’t decided on its merit. It was decided on technicality.”

The bill was passed by Student Congress on March 25 . Brady said he passed the bill to Lambden on March 27 .

According to the Student Constitution , the president has 10 school days to veto the bill. Because Lambden’s last day of office was Tuesday, he had three days to make a decision on the bill.

Brady said he had the authority to call a special session to override the veto, but he said there was not enough time and that it would be hard to meet quorum.

“If I had time, I would have called it,” he said.

Jacob Morse, former student body vice president, said Lambden did not intentionally veto the bill on the last day.

“He wanted to talk to some members of congress, the speaker of congress, the author of the bill and people in his administration like myself before his decision. He had a number of bills and a lot going on. That’s just how it happened. It wasn’t strategic,” he said.

Morse said Lambden vetoed the bill because he believed runoff campaigns benefited the voters.

“I think that many student body presidents agree that the runoff campaign allows the two candidates to reach much further areas of campus and discuss in details their platform points, which is valuable to them and the candidates,” he said.

Student government has made several reforms to student body president elections this year. Lambden’s administration shortened the campaign period to one week. Next year, campaign budgets will also be reduced in the original election from $250 to $100 and from $85 to $75 in the runoff .

“Instant runoff voting has the goal of the same thing,” Morse said. “It would be recreating the wheel because it’s already going to be a shorter process.”

Ferguson said he supports this method because he thinks it promotes student turnout. He said since 2003, seven elections saw decreased voter turnout in the runoff.

“They really like the season, but for most students, they would not miss another week of debates and endorsing,” he said. “Student body presidents can be a little biased on the season.”

Grace Ramsey , a spokeswoman from the nonprofit elections reform group Fair Vote, said using an instant runoff system changes the campaign tactics of candidates by encouraging them to reach out to a broader base of students.

“It’s a lot more voter-centered than candidate-centered,” she said.

Ramsey said many universities, including University of California at Berkley and Duke University have successfully implemented instant runoff voting for their student elections.

Morse said student voting systems are not one-size-fits-all.

“At Carolina, we are a uniquely politically informed campus. I think a lot of students understand the power that is handed to student government and I think most students respect the system enough to value an informed campaign,” Morse said.

This is Ferguson’s last year in Student Congress, but he is hopeful that someone will fight for a similar bill next year.

“Nothing’s changed, just the president,” he said. “There’s such wide support, and I’m sure if this bill were reintroduced and students get to weigh in to their representatives, I’m sure it would pass again.”

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