Tuesday, November 20

Online voting question goes to the ballot


Students' advisory vote not binding for the next year's council who will decide issue

By Sophia Chakos-Leiby

Daily Bruin Contributor

On the spring ballot, UCLA students will be able to decide if
they want the option to vote online in the 2003 Undergraduate
Students Association Council elections.

Although USAC has not taken a stance on the issue, on Tuesday
they passed an initiative 7-5 that put the question on the
ballot.

Members say they placed it on the ballot to get an advisory vote
to reflect student opinion. The responses gathered could be a guide
for next year’s USAC members “”mdash; who will decide on the
online voting issue for the 2003 elections.

President Karren Lane said that although future USAC members
could review the vote, “the results are not binding. They
don’t have to act on the information,” she said.

USAC has not presented this option to students since 1999, but
general representative David Dahle said now is a good time to raise
the issue again.

“In the past three years, technology has changed a lot and
people are more used to the Internet and computer systems. We are
expected to use them everyday,” Dahle said.

Of the eight other UC campuses, he continued, Davis, Irvine,
Riverside, San Diego and Santa Cruz solely use online voting. USAC
did not discuss the pros and cons of online voting, however, in
depth during Tuesday’s meeting.

But a debate over the phrasing of the question on the ballot
ensued for over an hour. Conflict broke out over the number of
options students would have to choose from.

Lane, and other members such as internal vice president Kennisha
Austin, complained when they saw the initiative introduced by
Dahle, facilities commissioner Jeremy McKenzie and student welfare
commissioner Peter Trinh.

“I was not comfortable with the language they
proposed,” Lane said. “Originally, it was very leading
toward online elections because it did not provide any
options.”

USAC members then spent the next hour working out language
issues. Originally, the question only gave students the option to
vote in favor “”mdash; or against “”mdash; online elections.

By the end of the meeting, however, USAC members revised the
question to offer five different options: the continuation of paper
ballots, the abolishment of paper ballots for an online method and
different combinations of the two.

The initiative that USAC passed was actually an amended version
of what former USAC members proposed in 1999.

Dahle said members discussed the wording in such detail to make
it as clear and neutral as possible. He added that the initiative
is a heated topic.

“Some people feel threatened by online voting because it
has shown in the past to increase voter turnout,” Dahle
said.

“In any political arena when voting is affected, the
people who think they benefit from the current system will oppose
change,” he continued.

In the meeting, all the USAC members who voted the initiative
down are in Student Empowerment! “”mdash; the current dominant
political slate that could be threatened if online elections change
voter turnout in certain groups.

Lane, however, said this increase in voter turnout is not an
issue and said the real conflict lies in safety problems.

“The debate is over security,” she said. “But
it has been clouded with assumptions that the paper ballot gives
advantages to particular candidates.”

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