A New Way to Elect Student Leadership

Photo Credit: Fordham Law News

By Alison Harner ‘24

School governments are nothing new. Education systems across the globe give the opportunity for students to gain valuable skills in authority and responsibility, preparing them for a brighter future. But the system has its flaws.

First of all, running for an office is entirely different from running an office. The most popular way to elect student leaders seems simple enough: anyone who wants to run applies, maybe gives a few speeches, and waits for the votes to come in. Adam Cronkright of Democracy in Practice and Simon Pek of Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria, propose an alternative: democratic lotteries. With a lottery system, discrimination is nonexistent, and luck decides who gets a chance to command.

Any student who wishes to run submits their name, and then, in whichever way the school chooses to organize the drawing, a certain number of names are selected. Some requirements may be set for those who wish to run, such as passing grades, but otherwise, anyone has a chance to win. The process doesn’t have a 100% success rate, but more often than not, it gives experience to those who didn’t realize that they were capable of successful leadership.

The idea was not accepted at first when presented to a group of students. Most found it difficult to forget everything they knew and follow this new concept. However, the mood changed when the high-schoolers were presented with this scenario: if the democratic lottery model had been implemented in US government elections since the beginning, what percentage of presidents would be female? This model might not be the most effective for real-world elections, but if put into practice in schools, a more diverse cast of students would be able to try their hand at leadership.

Cronkright and Peck discovered that lotteries increased overall interest in the student government. The randomness of the process gives shyer and less popular kids a shot at winning, and they know that there are no hard feelings if they lose. The more people who are given an opportunity through the lottery system, the more competent leaders we will have in the future.

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