Tuesday, November 20

Online voting under consideration


Initiative may hurt Student Empowerment!'s lead in council elections

By Marcelle Richards

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

An online ballot for Undergraduate Students Association Council
elections may be out of the question this year, but it’s not
out of the picture for good.

Three members will push an initiative at today’s USAC
meeting to hold elections online in 2003.

The initiative may indirectly put Student Empowerment! ““
the dominant slate on USAC ““ in jeopardy in coming years with
a possible rise in voter turnout from dorm residents and members of
Greek life.

“It’s been a big debate for a long time, especially
last year,” said Peter Trinh, student welfare commissioner.
“We can’t have it this year, but students should be
able to have it next year if they want it.”

Trinh will present the proposal with General Representative
David Dahle and Facilities Commissioner Jeremy McKenzie.

The initiative is unfeasible now, since elections board
appointments were made several months late.

E-Board members are supposed to be appointed fall quarter. This
year, E-Board chair Matthew Kaczmar did not assume his post until
early February.

Council members voted on which ballot to use ““ ultimately
approving the paper version ““ at its April 2 meeting. USAC
elections are scheduled to begin fifth week, which would have left
the board less than three weeks for the hefty task of implementing
an online ballot via the My.UCLA Web site.

Kaczmar said it would have been impossible to do it in the given
time frame. The E-Board would have to figure out how to conduct
elections ““ where and during which hours ““ and how to
police the elections.

Online elections raised voter turnout in the Graduate Students
Association’s race in 2001, when turnout doubled to 15
percent, allowing GSA to meet its 10 percent turnout target for the
first time in more than a decade.

More important is the effect online ballots may have on voter
turnout within UCLA’s political machines.

Ethnic-based student groups under the Student Empowerment! slate
have become political powerhouses within USAC: the African Student
Association produced USAC President Karren Lane and Samahang
Pilipino is homebase for several consecutive financial supports
commissioners, including Kim Coss, who resigned in early February,
citing personal reasons.

Student Empowerment! was formerly known as Praxis, which based
its platform on Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the
Oppressed.” Like every other slate, it is not recognized by
the E-Board.

But a move to online ballots could upset the Student
Empowerment! slate’s domination in USAC races, with a
possible rise in voting from on-campus housing residents and
Greeks.

This could mean the Students United for Reform and Equality
slate, which included Dahle and McKenzie last year, could get a
boost of voting power if the proposal is approved.

Of the 13 elected members on USAC this year, eight belong to
Student Empowerment! If most of them vote with their party’s
future in mind, the initiative will not pass.

Last year, the council voted down a similar online initiative
6-3. The failure of online elections led to the resignation of
then-E-Board Chair Alex Kaplan, who said USAC was superceding the
decision-making power of the E-Board. Kaplan maintained E-Board
held the power to plan elections independent of the council.

Lane, whose successors may be disadvantaged by the online
initiative, said she won’t take a public stance.

“Elections are a time when there is huge debate, and I
think that it is healthy for there to be discussion and
dialogue,” she said. “I would like to ensure that this
continues to happen. Different methods are on the Web, but it
doesn’t create the type of dialogue and debate that occurs on
campus with the methods we utilize.”

Gideon Baum, E-Board publicity committee member and strong
proponent of online voting, predicts online voting will happen in
the near future, but some changes need to occur. The E-Board
charter, which does not include online voting guidelines, needs to
redefine the board’s role if elections on the Web are
pursued, Baum said.

“It’s a matter of USAC making it a priority,”
he said.

With reports from Rachel Makabi, Daily Bruin Senior Staff.

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