April 3, 2009 Leave a comment
by Grace Chambers
Despite a mere 22-vote difference in the hotly contested Student Government Association president’s race and admitted discrepancies in vote totals, the SGA Executive Committee voted Sunday to stand by its March officer elections.
In a 9-2 secret vote, SGA declared the elections to be “fair and honest.”
The hearing is a result of questions raised last week by the Rambler over discrepancies. The Rambler reported that out of 862 eligible voters, 439 students cast ballots. However, in its review of the roster used as a record of student voters during the election process, it was found that only 396 students appeared to have voted, a discrepancy of 43 votes.
Following the Rambler report, Dean of Students Michael Vetter recommended that out-going SGA President Molly Burchett conduct a formal review of the election process.
At the hearing on Sunday, Burchett presented her findings to the Executive Committee, which includes both presidential candidates Jacob Brumfield, who won, and Tyler Murphy, as well as Kaushik Mohan, Joshua Schwartz, Rewa Zakharia, Prya Murad, Rebecca Goncharoff, Kristen Geil, Grant Buckles, Lee Nutini, Molly Burchett and Lindsey Jagoe.
According to Burchett, the discrepancies in vote totals can be explained by “human error.” She also cited SGA’s use of electronic voting machines for the first time as another reason that the discrepancy could have occurred. Although the machines worked properly, the process of administering the pass codes for the machines could have caused election workers to neglect to accurately record the names of students who voted.
During the hearing, Burchett gave a report and then each member was allowed a one-minute speech. Everyone except Burchett cast a secret vote as to whether they thought the elections were fair and honest.
Murphy, who voted no, said he was not convinced by Burchett’s report “beyond any reasonable doubt of the integrity of the electoral process.”
“That’s what guided my vote as a member of EC, a senator and a voter. I called for an independent review to ensure that voters could have full faith and confidence in a system they use to elect their representatives,” said Murphy, who plans to seek reform of the election process as a senator for 2009-2010 school year.
Brumfield, on the other hand, said the elections were fair and honest though he agrees that SGA should
“I want to open this problem up to the creative minds we have on senate for possible solutions before making a decision…Regardless of the semantics of how future elections will be run, though, near-perfect accountability of voters will be the center of attention in them,” Brumfield said.
Likewise, Burchett and Mohan said that SGA needs to make changes to ensure that discrepancies of this magnitude do not occur again.
“I feel like maybe it was kind of like a wake-up call for us that we need a new procedure. We need a new way to identify [who votes] and do it more accurately next year,” Mohan said.
There was also a three percent discrepancy in vote totals for the recent Senate elections, according to Mohan.
“I do think we need to be careful…I do think that this human error needs to be addressed in some way. I think it is inevitable, but if we could try to minimize that to the least amount possible that would be best,” said Burchett, adding that training for election booth workers might reduce the possibility of human error.
Officers for the 2009-2010 school year were sworn in Wednesday night, installing Brumfield as president, Joshua Schwartz as vice president, Anderson Salinas as secretary and Jessica Short as treasurer, as well as the new senators.