As a candidate who ran in the student elections last year, I completely disagree with several assertions made in The Hatchet’s Thursday staff editorial JEC Repeat.
I cannot believe that anyone would think that the election process was better last year than this. Many people I ran into on the street during the two days of palmcarding noted that the elections this year were less personal and there was very little negative campaigning. I think the current Student Association Elections Committee, and the Marvin Center Governing Board/Program Board of Elections are to be commended for this.
Many people do not realize that the Elections Committees are composed of volunteers. They do not get paid or otherwise compensated for their services. They are willing to do a thankless job that requires a lot of hard work for free. Instead of being lampooned for circumstances out of their control (i.e. the voting machine debacle), they should be praised for handling a stressful situation in an intelligent and professional way. Without the Elections Committees, the elections simply wouldn’t exist.
There was also some false information that was relied on for the editorial that I would like to clarify. Phone lines were only down on the first day of voting in three out of the eight polling locations. Before counting them, the committees checked the voting logs against a list of all registered students. If there was any discrepancy, ballots were invalidated. I think the possibility of a student being able to vote multiple times with the new system is extremely unlikely, if not impossible. Several people actually tried to vote twice and were turned away, as were several people who were not considered by the University registrar to be registered students at the time of election. Students’ schools were checked, as anyone who voted would be able to tell you. The first thing a poll watcher had to say when they called in was what school the person was registered in, and if their name did not appear on that school’s list, they could not vote.
As far as having numbered ballots, I think this was one of the best things the committee could have decided on. I do not believe that this system denies students the opportunity to vote by secret ballot, since after verifying that people were students, these poll books were secured and not to be looked at by the committees again. If the committee had decided not to number the paper ballots, we could have had the disastrous situation of last year’s elections where ballots were lost and found again, only to change the results of the election, and to leave doubt in candidates’ minds as to the validity of those results. With the new open counting process it is, in my opinion, near impossible for members of the committee or any member of the public to fraudulently affect the ballots.
While I agree with the editorial that the election process this year may have been a hassle, I do not see how one can say that it kept voter turnout low. As reported in the online edition of The Hatchet, more than 2,500 people voted in this year’s presidential race. This is a huge increase over the 2,200 who voted last year.
Once again, I would commend both committees on a job so far well done and thank them for volunteering to take on such a thankless position. Without the committee and its hard work, the elections could have been truly more disastrous than last year.
-The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is SA president.