Wednesday, August 21

Voting amendment sparks debate within USAC


Tension marked the first meeting of the quarter for the
undergraduate student government as council members raised concerns
Tuesday night about a proposed constitutional amendment to voting
rights.

Members of the Undergraduate Students Association Council
debated the effects of an amendment proposed by General
Representative Josh Lawson. The amendment would permanently
implement online ballots to replace paper ballots and would
eradicate a five-minute Internet protocol voting delay.

Council members were concerned that removing the voting delay
could increase the possibility of bloc voting.

The delay was added during last year’s online election to
prevent bloc voting with off-campus computers. With the delay, two
students voting on the same computer would have a five-minute delay
between each submission.

One intention of implementing the delay was to hinder efforts
that could have been made by organizations to force members to vote
on one computer, in succession for the same candidate or issue.

But some argued that the delays pose problems if one student is
unable to vote because a student on a different computer on the
same IP address had just voted. Some off-campus computers in the
same unit share one IP address.

“I personally see (the delay) as a worse infringement on a
student’s right to vote … than if bloc voting takes
place,” said Amy Lucas, a member of Lawson’s staff.

Lawson said bloc voting is a concern but he does not believe it
will be an issue if the voting delay is removed.

But Academic Affairs Commissioner Sophia Kozak said there is no
way to ensure that bloc voting will not happen if the voting delay
is removed.

“The prospect of bloc voting is a larger concern and a
bigger affront to the student’s right to vote in a democratic
election,” Kozak said.

At the meeting, Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kelly Wynn said
she did not understand the necessity of implementing online
elections.

“As a registered voter in the real world, the process is
the same (in terms of paper ballots,)” Wynn said.

Student Welfare Commissioner Janet Chiang said she believes
online elections should become an election code rather than a
constitutional amendment. Minor changes to the election codes are
made every year by the elections board.

“Technology is going to change year to year …
we’re talking about changing the constitution year to
year,” Chiang said.

Council members also discussed the costs of having a special
election, which would take place once the petition for the proposed
amendment receives 2,500 signatories or 10 percent of the student
body’s approval.

The amount of money allocated for the special election depends
on the election board chair ““ who has yet to be appointed.
Appointment for the election board chair was tabled at the Nov. 18
meeting because the candidate was not present.

Because a portion of USAC’s budget is allocated to the
election board, funding for the special election will come from
mandatory student fees.

If the initiative passes, other changes in addition to online
ballots and voting delay removal will be made.

The proposal calls for an amendment to explicitly state for all
students to have the right to vote regardless of characteristics
such as race, ethnicity, sex and creed. Although the university
already has a non-discrimination policy, Lawson said the
constitution needs to explicitly state the right to vote.

“If it’s really implied, then we wouldn’t have
had such a massive debate about it,” Lawson said.

Lawson is expected to make a presentation to council during
third week if the number of required signatures are collected. A
special election is expected to take place 15 days after the
presentation.

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