Musing Over Algorithms: Fests Convener Elections

Musing Over Algorithms: Fests Convener Elections

Aug 28, 2017 | Zakiya Ali

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Student Activity Centre(SAC), the central hub of student activities in the campus underwent several changes this year as prescribed by the SAC restructuring committee, principle among which was the separation of the fest body constituting of 3 conveners (2 elected and 1 nominated) for each of the three fests, namely the Technical Fest, Cultural Fest and the Sports Fest. SAC election for fest conveners is scheduled to be held on the 5th of September, this year. Since there are two posts for elected conveners, and the algorithm for counting the votes is yet to be declared, Team MM conducted a survey to gauge the opinion of the general populace of NITR on the question

What algorithm should be used to count votes for the Convener elections?

Response 1: Primary and Secondary votes should have equal weightage, with the top two candidates with the highest total votes declared as the winner.

46% of the NITR Junta feels that both primary and secondary votes must be given an equal weightage as opposed to the previous rule followed where the primary votes held supreme and secondary votes came into the picture only under certain circumstances.

The previous algorithm is considered ineffective by nearly half of the NITR populace because most of them feel that since these two conveners will be elected for every fest, the preference order whether first (primary) or second (secondary) should not matter.This group of students feel that the candidate having a clear majority should win regardless of the individual total number of votes secured in each of the primary or secondary vote domain.

Besides, giving both primary and secondary equal weightage in a way would make the process way simpler, ensuring a certain degree of transparency.

Response 2: Primary and Secondary votes should be treated differently, as done in SAC Elections  2016.

31% of the people feel that the earlier algorithm used for the election of Conveners was efficacious as it ensured that the two candidates scoring the maximum number of primary votes (more than at least one-third of total primary votes polled) were declared the winner.

Further, this algorithm also addresses any unprecedented circumstance such as:

  • Only one of the candidates scores more than one-third of the primary votes: The candidate who has more than one-third of the primary votes is declared the winner. Afterwards, all the votes where the first winner has scored primary votes are recounted for secondary votes. The secondary votes of the winner are distributed amongst the other candidates. The secondary votes polled by each of the remaining candidates are added to the primary votes which had been already polled by them. The candidate who scores the highest number of primary votes is declared as the winner. This algorithm in place of selecting the second most deserving candidate selects the candidate having a higher vote percentage in the election as the criteria.
  • None of the candidates scores more than one-third of the primary votes: In this case, both primary and secondary votes gain equal importance irrespective of the percentage of votes polled and the sum total of the two decides the winner.

Response 3: I don't have any idea about the algorithm used in vote counting.

A dismal 23% of the students were aloof to the algorithm used in electing the conveners as they were only concerned about the way in which the fests were held regardless of who organises it and in what way he or she is elected.

This group also included the ones who are unaffected regarding the usage of the INR 2000 which they pay under the head of Student Activity fee every semester. This, in a way reflected back to their distant attitude towards SAC activities in general and SAC elections in particular.

Summing up the responses, it can be concluded that besides being complex, the previous algorithm used in SAC elections-2016 had certain anomalies and discrepancies which could be rectified by implementing a simpler and comprehensible algorithm which would ensure fairness and transparency in the upcoming Fests Convener elections. In addition to this, the SAC authorities should ensure that students are informed of the algorithm followed during the counting of votes. Likewise, as a responsible NITian, it is the duty of every student to take an initiative and be aware of the basic rules of SAC through which their representatives are elected.

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