Senate election turnout largest in 15 years, but …
Editor’s note: For a complete story about the election results, see Monday’s issue.
By a narrow margin of 24 votes, students elected the ticket of Tim Lauer for student body president and Meghan Charlier for vice president.
With 2,378 votes cast, this is the largest turnout in 15 years; Lauer and Charlier received 1,201 votes and presidential and vice-presidential hopefuls Emily Mattheisen and Caroline Wee received 1,177.
But the final results didn’t come so easily. On Wednesday, seven and a half hours after the expected time of results, current Student Senate President Ray French and Parliamentarian Christina Hansen tallied the votes in Old Library’s 24-hour lab early Thursday morning, as some candidates on the ballot, including Charlier and Lauer, waited. Other candidates, including Mattheisen, waited in the library’s lobby.
For the first time at the university, Senate held its general election electronically, ridding itself of the usual paper trails in Davies Center.
From Monday through Wednesday, voters could follow a link sent to them via e-mail to cast their vote, but several obstacles kept the procedure from running as smoothly as possible, French said.
Initially, voting was scheduled to end at 6 p.m. Wednesday. But for more than four hours the WebSurvey system had to be shut down Monday, so Senate decided at its meeting Monday night to extend voting to 11:59 p.m. Wednesday night.
“This has been really crazy,” French said. “With any process there is always going to be trouble in the first round.”
Within the first four hours Monday, 1,007 votes had already been cast, French said, but Senate found that faculty and staff could vote as well as students. After shutting down the system to remedy the problem, it found three illegitimate votes.
Political science professor Steven Majstorovic said he voted for himself and Lindsay Lohan.
“I thought (she) would be a suitable partner because of her ability to avoid trouble,” he said jokingly. He said he thinks electronic voting is a bad idea.
“I think essentially, when it comes to democracy and elections, anything that is dealing with electronic voting is asking for trouble,” he said.
Senior Jacob Boer, a former senator who voted against the idea of online voting, said he was the one who found the error, so he told Majstorovic to vote to be certain.
Boer said while the voter turnout was high, there is a debate between quality and quantity.
“I personally have clicked ‘submit’ on at least 30 ballots . ’cause they don’t care,” he said. “There’s a reason why we have voting booths with curtains.”
French said he looked at the list of people who voted to be sure they were all enrolled students, and because there were only three illegitimate votes, Senate continued with the election and didn’t erase the ones already cast.
If the race came down to three votes of each other, it would be considered a tie, French said. Then the newly appointed Senate would determine the president and vice president, as stated in its bylaws.
French said WebSurvey allows them to see who voted but not whom they voted for. Since there’s a login for everything, he said there’s no way to be completely anonymous.
Then, for a short period of time, the WebSurvey system wouldn’t allow anyone to log in, French said.
“It had nothing to do with our election. It was just bad timing for us,” he said, adding that when the problem was fixed, some students were still unable to log in.
Senate had to manually log in to allow them to vote.
Senate gave online voting a test run in February by holding a referendum question election, which had a high voter turnout.
“I guess we just didn’t experience all the problems,” French said.
Senate voted last month 23-5-1 to hold the online election, citing past success with the system and convenience.
Aside from the glitches, French said he hopes Senate will continue with online elections and refine the process.
“Overall I’m very satisfied with the turnout … We believe it could have been more. We think (the glitches) could have cost us momentum,” he said.
Sophomore Ashley Cooper said it was convenient.
“It’s a really good idea. Not everyone has a chance to do it in Davies,” Cooper said.
Monday night’s Senate meeting also housed a heated debate about a different concern.
Some candidates on the ballot set up computers for students to vote at on the Campus Mall Monday afternoon during Senate Day, a time for campaigning. For future reference, Senate questioned whether that is ethical or not.
The body wanted to amend its bylaws to have a clause that clearly states it cannot be done, but decided to research more.
No one accused candidates of being unethical, since the whole online voting process is a new experience, but in the future, they said it might not be a good idea.
“This is no way a reflection of today . however I don’t agree with polling where candidates are. I . find it unethical, negative peer pressure,” Finance Commission Director Tom Holtan said.
Sen. Jake Johnson, who helped with the computers on the Campus Mall, said he wasn’t being unethical.
“One thousand student votes in four hours. What? That’s amazing!” Johnson said. “I just wanted students to vote, because I love democracy.”
Sen. Caroline Wee, vice-presidential hopeful, agreed, and said she wasn’t trying to solicit votes.
“I know for a fact that there were people that voted for the other party on our computers. When that happened we were like ‘That’s your choice,’ ” she said.
Charlier said she didn’t want to be a part of it.
“In a normal national election there would be public outcry if candidates were at the polling place watching. It wouldn’t be allowed at any level and we all know that,” she said.
Despite the problems, French said he thinks it would be foolish to give up on the idea of an online election.
“I think we’ve made significant strides with the online process.”