GUSA election part II

February 28, 2008

As of 5:36 p.m. last night, 2,437 votes had been cast in the run-off election for GUSA President, nine more than the 2,428 cast in the first election. Voting will continue until noon today. The election is a the result of a GUSA Senate vote not to certify last week’s elections, based on the recommendation of Election Commissioner Maura Cassidy (COL ’08).

Before the Senate meeting, Cassidy met with the eight candidates. Instead of announcing the winner, she presented the results of the original vote, in which the top four candidates all received more than 400 first round votes, and the bottom four all received less than 200. Withholding names, Cassidy said that she had to go through eight rounds of IRV before any candidate got a majority of the vote, and expressed concern over the number of complaints she had received about the format of the ballot, as well as the strong correlation between the candidates’ alphabetical place on the ballot and the number of votes they received in later rounds. She proposed a run-off between the top four vote getters, and all eight candidates agreed. She then announced that D.W. Cartier (COL ’09), Pat Dowd (SFS ’09), Kyle Williams (COL ’09) and David Dietz (COL ’10) landed in the top four.

Although Dowd was in the lead for seven rounds of voting, Cartier gained a huge 407-vote jump from the seventh to the eighth round, winning with a 51 percent majority.

Cassidy gave the same presentation and recommendation to the GUSA Senate. After over an hour of debate, the Senate voted to deny certification in a 16 to 2 vote with 3 abstentions. Of the 35 GUSA senators, 23 were present, with several leaving during the course of the almost two-hour meeting.

Most of the senators voted not to certify because they felt there were too many questions surrounding the fairness of the ballot and the IRV system.

“IRV is a terrible choice if you have more than four candidates,” Zack Bluestone (SFS ’09), a GUSA senator, said. “I don’t think we can certify an election in good faith that doesn’t look indicative [of the will of the student body]. There are too many question marks.”

But GUSA senator Brian Wood (COL ’09), who voted to certify the results, was disappointed by the Senate’s decision.

“We rejected the results of a poorly-constructed, yet legitimate election, and we will likely be left instead with a new election that does not capture the will and voice of the students from the original election, but leaves their will fundamentally altered and their voice muffled to an even greater degree,” Wood wrote in an e-mail.

After voting not to certify, the GUSA Senate debated whether or not to keep all eight of the candidates or just the top four on the second ballot. The Senate voted 10 to 5 with 4 abstentions to limit the second election to the top four tickets.

“In the voting for me to not be [kept] in the [second] election, yes, I think there was bias,” Sean Hayes (MSB ’10), who placed fifth, said. “It … sucked that probably five or six of the [senators] who voted against me had a vested interest in other candidates.”

Although Cassidy said that the top four candidates all agreed readily to the second election before they knew who had won. Cartier and his campaign raised objections after the Senate’s decisions.

Gage Raley (COL ’08), Cartier’s campaign manager, created a Facebook group urging students to boycott the run-off and encouraged Cartier to remove himself from the ballot.

“He didn’t have to win twice,” Raley said. “It was kind of insulting for them to say he only won because of the alphabetical order … The whole organization is just really incestuous. If you’re not the typical Joe Hoya candidate they’re just going to decertify it. These kind of things the GUSA Senate pulls are why people hate GUSA.”

Cartier said he does not think the run-off is fair and has said he will not vote in it. He said that although he agreed to the run-off in the initial meeting with Cassidy, he disagreed with the exclusion of the bottom four candidates and the quick turn-around.

“They set the system and I won by it and they changed it in the end—and I disagree with that,” Cartier said. “It’s no longer about winning … The main reason I’m not participating is not bitterness or anger. I felt so horrible when I heard other candidates were eliminated.”

Williams said Cartier was a main proponent of the run-off before the results were revealed.

Current GUSA President Ben Shaw (COL ’08) and Vice President Matt Appenfeller (COL ’08), who won last year with a 52 percent majority in the last election, drew up a list of recommendations with Cassidy for the second run-off. The ballot is randomly ordered: Cartier, Williams, Dowd and Dietz. The election commission sent out a broadcast email with 100-word blurbs from the candidates.

“I like the e-mail they sent out,” Kelsey Cruise (COL ’10) said. “The first time it was just name recognition.”

Cassidy plans on working with GUSA and the election commission to make suggestions for future elections. She raised the possibility of having a primary, especially in races with so many candidates. Despite the complications it caused, Cassidy said she believes GUSA will keep the IRV system.

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