It appears that another Students’ Association Senate election is headed to the All-Campus Judicial Council for a decision on whether the election and its rules were carried out correctly this week. ACJC’s decision — tentatively scheduled to be made on Sunday evening — could change the results of the At-Large and Class of 2004 elections or throw out the entire election and call for a new one scheduled at a later date.
The problems center around three issues — the difficulty of students using the Senate’s new voting program throughout the entire election, the decision of the Senate’s election committee to disqualify junior Atul Gulati from the at-large race because of illegal poster hanging and the committee’s decision not to accept a written ballot voting for Gulati as a write-in the Class of 2004 race.
“Currently, we have received only one complaint, centering around two issues,” senior and ACJC Chief Justice Rachel Morrissey said. She said the ACJC must first decide whether the election committee overstepped its bounds removing Gulati from the ballot. If they did, the ACJC must decide on a proper remedy. One option is reinstating his vote totals.
If the Senate election committee was within its bounds, the ACJC must then decide how to treat the contested write-in ballot and how to fix the electoral situation.
The problems began Monday morning when Senate’s new Web-based voting system didn’t react well to computers that had used the program before and wouldn’t log in to the program.
“Things started out a little shaky,” senior and election committee chair Steve Duszlak said. By Tuesday, Duszlak and the the election committee decided to send out a campus-wide e-mail clarifying the confusing situation to help address candidates’ concerns and to attempt to increase voter turnout. Duszlak wrote instructions to those confused by the system and told anyone with problems to get in contact with either himself of a member of the election committee.
“I know a lot of people had troubles,” sophomore and newly elected At-Large senator Becca Wolfson said. “Some of them ended up voting at Wilson or in the library, but some didn’t vote at all because of it. I think a lot of people don’t care enough about the election to go out of their way to cast a vote like that.”
Contested resultsComplaints came in to the election committee Wednesday morning about posters hung in Wilson Commons, a violation of election bylaws.
Gulati said he was unaware of the rule against hanging campaign material in Wilson Commons and that his campaign manager put them up because they saw other candidates’ posters in the building.
Duzslak said that he handed out a set of election bylaws to every candidate and received a signed contract from them saying they had read and understood the rules.
Towers Senator, election committee member and sophomore Peter Nabozny said he searched the building around noon Wednesday and found seven posters — all belonging to Gulati.
Wednesday afternoon the Election Committee met and decided to disqualify Gulati from the election.
“It was the fairest thing to do for all the candidates,” Duzslak said.
After he was disqualified from the At-Large election, Gulati was told he could still be eligible to win as a write-in candidate. He directed his efforts to getting friends to write him in as a Class of 2004 Senator. He fell one online vote short. There is some dispute as to whether he had enough votes, however.
Gulati said he was told by election committee members that a written ballot was given to them 15 minutes before the deadline. After a short discussion, he said he was told that the committee decided not to count it.
Duszlak said that the paper in question was never a vote to begin with.
“We don’t accept paper ballots,” he said. “I just took his name and information to see about whether there were problems with the systems so we could fix them in the future.”
Nabozny agreed. “The kid came in 15 minutes before the voting was scheduled to end. The way our bylaws are written, we just couldn’t count it.”Gulati plans to appeal this decision to the ACJC, as well.
If the contested vote had counted, Gulati would have tied with write-in candidate and junior Brett Abercrombie, who finished with 11 votes. Abercrombie, who said he devoted about 10 total minutes to his campaign, was surprised he won and wasn’t sure if he would accept his new seat.
“To be honest, I didn’t think I’d win,” he said. “I thought someone else would figure out the system and put a lot more effort into it.”
A total of 426 undergraduates voted in the election or around 12 percent of the school, in line with previous election turn-out ranges.
“The problem is mainly that we didn’t have a lot of people run,” Duszlak said. “The way the system works is that friends tell friends to vote for them.”
Take-Five Scholar and Speaker of the Senate Ashley Conner said she remembers a low voter turnout for four years and that it can be attributed to a lot of different factors.
“I think [the turnout] is just systematic of the university environment and the current U.S. political system as a whole,” she said.
Hildebrandt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.