For the past three years undergraduate elections have been characterized by the inefficiency and laxity of the men in charge of these elections. The Student Council elections of 1929 and 1930 are notable examples and need no review here.
The announcement of the results of the five men picked for the Album Committee shows the same astounding mishandling. According to the explicit instructions on the ballots and the notices accompanying the photographs of the nominees, members of the class were to pick five men for the Album Committee by preference. When the results were made known it was clear that the votes had been counted by straight numerical tabulation and each figure was marked as an equal vote. When this was pointed out to the officers in charge, the answer was that the announcement on the ballot was a mistake and that it had been decided yesterday to count them numerically.
As was pointed out last year, when the space for signature omitted on the Student Council ballots was excused as a typographical error or printer's mistake, efficient handling of the elections would have precluded this. In addition it might be asked why, if balloting started on Wednesday, the change in counting methods was decided upon on Thursday? And even further, why was it that at noon yesterday the notice remained unchanged on the pictures of the nominees, was not scratched out on the ballots, and why the change was not announced to the voters by the men stationed at the booths when ballots were being distributed?
Obviously, in a close election, as this was, a man receiving a large number of fifth choices would poll a poorer vote than if each fifth vote received as much consideration as a first choice. It is also plain that a candidate receiving numerous second and third votes would be elected rather than a nominee polling a few first and a numerous number of last choices. When the Senior Class is under the apprehension that it is balloting under the preferential system, it may use, if it wishes, the first choice for candidates whom it believes to be weak, with the hope of bringing them up.
The CRIMSON is not discussing the relative merits of the two systems. But the facts that the voting took place under the preferential system and the ballots were counted under the straight vote system cannot be reconciled. The actions of the committee members in charge last night are inexcusable. Their explanations were never definite nor indicative of competence. The first defence, that the statement on the ballots to vote preferentially was a misprint, is astoundingly weak; it is generally the custom for the men in charge to proof-read such important documents as ballots. If they had done so, the mistake would never have happened. Secondly, their protest that the straight vote system has been used exclusively in past years and should be this year does not take into account the important objection that, because of their mistake, the Senior Class voted preferentially and the ballots should have been counted preferentially to insure actual representation.
The third indictment against the committee is the recurrent vacillation last night. The ballots, it was said, would be counted anew under the system used in voting. Then it was discovered that the ballots had been burned, thus precluding from the start any question of a recount. The CRIMSON proposed another election run definitely under one system or another when the remaining class officers are elected next week. The chairman of the committee decided that another election would be held, in fairness to all concerned, and the matter was presumably cleared up. A few minutes later the CRIMSON was informed that the committee had changed its mind again and would consider the election results as official.' No explanations were given.
Obviously, the elections were carelessly and inefficiently handled. The Senior elections are the only ones in which any interest is shown, according to statistics. If, as the committee believes, the same men would be chosen in a second election, there would be no harm done and the winners can feel that they hold their offices as the accredited representatives of the class. There is no alternative.
The evident laxity of the members of the committee in regard to the making up of the ballot, the inadequacy of their explanations, and their changing of position in regard to another election, are indications that prove that the present system of holding elections at Harvard needs radical revision. Undergraduate elections, sloppy in instances during the last three years, reach the limit of their irresponsibility in the present case. It is suggested that the Student Council undertake the drawing up of an election code for all future undergraduate elections, and thereby create an ordinance to guard against such unfortunate occurrences as that witnessed yesterday.