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Vote early and vote often

The University Board of Elections should not have allowed an erroneous ballot to be released

Voting in spring elections began yesterday at 8 a.m. By 9 a.m., an error message was posted on Student Council’s referendum for the University Unity Project stating that the voting options did not allow students to adequately answer the question posed to them and Council would post an alternate voting method on its Web site. Though the quick assessment of this problem is undoubtedly appreciated, the University Board of Elections should have anticipated mistakes on the ballot and had mechanisms in place to catch them. Council’s quickly rendered poll is not a solution and should not be displaying the results of the vote on its Web site. To show results before the voting period is over compromises the legitimacy of the process. UBE does not have very many responsibilities, and a functional ballot is not too much to expect. UBE should have been able to anticipate this mistake by reviewing the ballot before elections began. Even if elections had to be delayed to correct the problem, that would have been preferable to invalidating the results for a referendum.

UBE Chair Alisa Abbott said UBE uses the majority of its budget to pay the Information Technology and Communication office to set up the computer program for elections. It is UBE’s responsibility to provide ITC with the necessary information for all voting options. All referenda were given yes or no answers and there was no distinction for the Council referendum, which required multiple answers. Abbott said there is no way to fix the problem on the ballot except to take the ballot offline and even then, to fix the problem would take much too long now that elections have already started. Abbott has already said UBE takes full responsibility for the mistake — but it is not enough to admit a mistake. This mistake should never have occurred in the first place. UBE should have examined the ballot for errors before it was released, whether by a closed trial run of the voting process or simply previewing the choices for voters. Council has stepped up and is attempting to conduct its own opinion poll, but its voting system has many flaws.

The most glaring fault is that students do not have to log in to vote on Council’s Web poll; anyone on a computer connected to the Internet may vote, but initially only one vote could be cast from each IP address. This meant a person with access to different computers could vote multiple times, but once all the public computers in labs and libraries around Grounds were used to vote once, no one else could vote from those computers. Though Council attempted to remedy the IP address problem yesterday by removing this restriction, the system remains an inadequate assessment of student opinion — students may now vote as many times as they like, without restriction. Council cannot be faulted for attempting to address this problem, as there was simply not time to put together a viable alternative that accurately measures student opinion. Because of the many problems with the poll on Council’s Web site, the results from it can in no way be considered the legitimate voice of the student body and should not determine the theme of the Unity Project in the coming year.

Council can obviously put together a way to measure student opinion on its own, independent of UBE. The next step for Council is to put in the time necessary to develop a poll capable of accurately assessing what new Unity Project theme is desired by students, as under no circumstances can the results of Council’s current poll be considered valid. The only reason to submit a referendum in this case is to capitalize on the publicity of spring elections so that as many students as possible vote on this issue. UBE has failed its obligations to those bodies that give it the power to run elections and it must instate a viable way to check for errors before future elections.

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