Technical glitches, paper ballot errors and Metropolitan Police interference marked the first day of student election voting Wednesday. The loss of a number of online voting sites could also push back the announcement of victors until sunrise Friday morning.
Students voting in Funger Hall and Ross Hall and on the Mount Vernon Campus used paper ballots, although the Joint Election Committee originally planned to have laptops available. GW officials notified the JEC Tuesday night that Funger and Ross Halls and the Mount Vernon Campus’ “jacks couldn’t be activated in time,” said John Plack, JEC chair.
He said the JEC had no prior knowledge that the polling sites would be unable to get computer access. Students can still vote online in the Marvin Center ground floor lab and Thurston Hall.
“(Losing three computer voting sites) will make counting ballots (take) a lot longer,” Plack said.
Even with all online sites working last year, JEC officers announced results at 5:15 a.m.
While online voting typically takes a few minutes, each time a student uses a paper ballot, the poll watcher must call the JEC office to verify the student’s name and ID number. The JEC must record the ballot and ballot number after the voter finishes voting.
The Marvin Center polling location, one of two computer voting labs left, also did not open until about 10 a.m. Wednesday because of technical difficulties. This station was supposed to open at 9 a.m.
The JEC also lacked sufficient paper ballots for a number of positions at polling stations Wednesday, said Plack, although JEC members placed them there Tuesday.
“I think it’s a real shame that undergraduate students didn’t have chance to vote for all of their senators,” said Peter Feldman, a candidate for undergraduate senator at-large and a member of “A Clean Slate.” “It undermined the credibility of the election and student government.”
Plack added that the JEC placed a “rush order” at Kinko’s Tuesday night for other ballots that the Pulse failed to print. But he said he expects Thursday’s voting to run more smoothly.
Additionally, some paper ballots, including those in Funger and Ross halls, had misinformation concerning the Marvin Center Governing Board. The ballots stated that students should vote for five candidates, although they were supposed to choose four.
Plack said the JEC told poll watchers to notify voters to pick four candidates; but a poll watcher in Funger Hall at about 5 p.m. was unaware of the mistake. Plack said he is unsure of how the JEC will count votes, and did not know whether another vote would be necessary.
Despite problems, campaigners and their staffers seemed unfazed as they rallied outside the Marvin Center to garner voter support. Students enthusiastically handed out campaign literature, donned pins, stickers, hats and T-shirts. Noise reached past Kogan Plaza as supporters for the nine presidential candidates, four executive vice presidential candidates and dozens of senate hopefuls campaigned.
Supporters for presidential candidates Isaiah Pickens, Lee Roupas and Omar Woodard parked cars outside the H street entrance to the Marvin Center. Woodard campaigners stood on top of the car and screamed loudly in support of their candidate. At about 2 p.m, MPD officers asked campaigners to move their cars.
“(The police) didn’t give tickets out,” said junior Jose Aspillera, a campaigner for Woodard and executive vice presidential candidate Ed Buckley. “They were just trying to get (the vehicles) out of the way.”
Roupas said he moved his maroon van, but it was back outside at about 6:30 p.m.
A student dressed in an ape suit held a sign saying “The National Zoo endorses Lee Roupas,” while the candidate’s supporters, in fire hats, began a chant at about 6:30 p.m.
“Roupas! Roupas!” they yelled, to which Woodard supporters responded with “Omar! Omar!”
Several SA hopefuls said they enjoyed campaigning and meeting students during the elections.
Pickens said several students asked him why they should vote for him. He said he told them he would like to encourage more school spirit.
“Students have been very receptive so far. And they like the ‘I pick Pickens’ thing,” he said, referring to his campaign slogan.
Plack, of the JEC, said less than half of the student body voted Wednesday, but he could not give specific numbers.
“From what I understand, a lot of people are just jaded by the entire process and they don’t care,” Plack said. “(There’s) only so much we can do and only so much candidates can (do).”
Several students said they voted for candidates because of issues or desire to change the way the SA is run.
“(Students should have) some say in this school in what goes on,” sophomore Gill Blattner said. “People should get to know the candidates beforehand in order to make a more accurate choice.”
Freshman Brian Chung said he voted for Woodard for president and Anthony Moniello for executive vice president because they were not active in the SA this year.
Other students said they voted for their friends or because of candidates’ character.
“I voted for Ben Traverse, (Columbian College senatorial candidate), because he’s an awesome guy,” sophomore Liz Stahl said. “(He is) very honest. He’s very serious about the issues he cares about.”
However, many students were apathetic about elections and said they had no plans to go to the polls.
“It’s … turned into a circus,” senior Kristina Jenkins said. “It’s wild out there.”
Campaigners and candidates were restricted to campaigning areas denoted by areas outlined with masking tape, but it was difficult for most students to walk into the buildings with polling locations without hearing or receiving information from SA hopefuls.
Students can vote in Thurston, Monroe, Funger and Ross halls, the Marvin Center and the Mount Vernon Campus Pub Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Results are set to be announced early Friday morning.
-Elizabeth Chernow, Tiago Forte, Michael Newman and Mosheh Oinounou contributed to this report.