The ASM Student Election Commission (SEC) ran the spring election three times before validating election results. You, the student body, deserve to know the course of events that preceded our decisions and justifications for such decisions throughout the duration of the election process.
It all began on the evening of Wednesday, March 29. The SEC was called to an open meeting at the Memorial Union to discuss the postponement of the ASM election, a decision that made earlier in the day by SEC Chair Tim Leonard. We were given the following information: a technological error occurred in the online database DoIT officials created for vote casting. We were told by DoIT officials the error occurred when students attempted to cast votes for multiple write-in candidates for Student Council representatives. We were told no errors occurred in votes cast for the Wisconsin Union and Living Wage referendums.
Due to the confinement of the technical error only affecting the Student Council portion of the ballot, the SEC chose to divide the ballot into two parts and reopen the vote on separate dates. DoIT was asked to create and test a new voting module for the referendum section and that portion of the election was to resume Thursday, March 30 at noon and run until 11:59 p.m. Friday. Election for Student Council seats were to reopen at 8 a.m. April 5 and run to 8 p.m. April 7.
For me, this was the most difficult decision of the entire election process. Questions regarding fairness and voting ramifications of any decision for all parties ran through my head. How can we throw out thousands of referendum votes when we've been told they're valid? How can we split up the ballots when we initially put the Student Council section and referendum section together? What will splitting up the ballot mean for voter turnout? These were troubling questions for all SEC members; however our final decision to split up the ballot and run two separate elections seemed the most fair and just decision.
Then we were hit again. On the evening of Wednesday, April 5 the SEC was called to the Red Gym to discuss a second computer error in the Student Council election. DoIT officials informed us that a computer error caused a disparity between the number of student votes cast and the number of votes confirmed on its online election database. DoIT officials told us they could not validate the election results because of the discrepancy and recommended that the SEC cancel the Student Council election and proceed with paper ballots at a later date.
This blow was rough for everyone. Several Student Council candidates attended the meeting and voiced their frustration with the process, their extensive campaigning efforts and their near inability to campaign for a third time. All SEC members felt for these students and appreciated their presences and opinions. We sympathized with them, as we were equally frustrated and equally exhausted with conducting the election. Though the need to re-run the Student Council election for a third time was a let-down, we were faced with no other option. The online system was tainted and we needed to conduct a fair election in which results would be accurate and valid. Our only safe opinion was a paper ballot.
The SEC met again on the evening of Thursday, April 7 to discuss the logistics of running a paper ballot Student Council election. Discussion regarding polling locations was the central focus of the meeting, as we wanted to choose fair locations that would not disenfranchise voters. Many Student Council candidates offered polling location suggestions that they felt would be most fair. The SEC made a tentative list of locations as well as divided up commissioner responsibilities for organization and implementation of the paper ballot system.
And then we were hit again. Late Sunday, April 9, the ASM Student Judiciary (SJ) nullified the Wisconsin Union and Living Wage referendum votes. The decision came because DoIT failed to account for 436 referendum votes. The SJ decided to have students vote on the two referendums in the fall semester. The SJ justified their decision saying what matters is that the election process was tainted, not that the 436 votes unaccounted for would not have been enough to sway either election. The SEC understands and supports the SJ's decision.
And then we ran a successful paper ballot election. The election ran from Tuesday, April 11 to Wednesday, April 12 with polls open each day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Memorial Union, Union South, College Library, Steenbock Library, Grainger Hall and Vise Hall served as the polling locations. Preliminary results were released Tuesday, April 18 and result certification will occur this week.
Third time was the charm. Though a trying process for the SEC, the ASM staff, DoIT, Student Council candidates, referendum advocates and the entire student body, a fair election was conducted and valid results have been released. Thank you to everyone who worked so diligently in seeing the election process through, including Interim Dean Lori Berquam. Thank you to the student papers for accurately reporting election changes and developments and being flexible with changes in advertisements. Lastly, thank you students for your patience and commitment to vote in this election.
Advertising Student Election Commissioner