Student Elections Nullified by Fraud
The University of Chicago student government will hold new elections this Tuesday in the wake of a scandal in which the president of the government admitted to ballot-stuffing, said David Rosen, the university's associate vice president for public affairs.
The ballot-stuffing and a host of other irregularities--including the fact that the government vice president was not an enrolled student--rendered illegitimate the previous election, held in mid-October, according to a report by an ad hoc committee formed by the Student Assembly.
The 28-page report, researched after the president admitted to cheating, stated that the election's poorly laid out ballots, improper timing, and lack of proportional representation of the student body in the government required that all 50 assembly members seek reelection.
"A large number of constitutional violations led this committee to conclude that the election was a fraud to the extent of being unconstitutional and thus unacceptable to the University at large, and particularly to the student government of the University," the report stated.
"Anyone who cares about [the scandal] at all is really disgusted," said Larry Peskin, news editor of The Chicago Maroon, the university's undergraduate newspaper.
The scandal started to unravel when junior James C. Jacobsen, the assembly vice president, privately confronted the president of the government, junior Kathryn E. Sampeck, with evidence that he said proved that she had stuffed a ballot box while working as a poll watcher in a campus cafeteria.
Faced with Jacobsen's evidence, Sampeck publicly admitted that she had stuffed ballots, announcing her resignation the next day at a meeting of the assembly election committee, said William F. A. Penn, chairman of the government's finance committee.
Sampeck hinted in her resignation speech that she was not the only one who had cheated and suggested that Jacobsen also committed election indiscretions, Penn said.
"What I did was just a reaction to what was going on," Sampeck said in an interview, adding that she had cheated in retaliation against Jacobsen's earlier cheating.
The outgoing president's insinuations prompted the assembly to form the ad hoc committee, composed of students, to investigate the election. Late last month, the committee its report, which cited a spate of constitutional violations, stated that Jacobsen--who was chairman of the election committee--was not an officially enrolled student, and called for new elections.
The report questioned whether names were placed on the ballot in random order, or in an order calculated to help the candidates whose names were on top. It also criticized as an "error in judgement" the use of candidates as poll watchers.
In addition, the elections were not held within a constitutionally-determined time frame, and the geographical distribution of candidates did not conform with a rule requiring proportional representation, the report stated.
The new elections will be monitored by a committee of four specially recommended students who are not involved in the student government, Rosen said.
In order to avoid confusion, the new elections will be held on one day instead of two, and will use five polling spots, not 11 as before, In addition, no candidates will serve as poll watchers, and stricter verification procedures will check the names of students who vote, Rosen said.
"With the system as it was set up before, it was very easy for something to happen," Sampeck said. "The way it is set up now, the opportunity is not there anymore," she said.
Chicago students and officials said that, ironically, the scandal has fostered interest in student government and more students are running for office than before.
"For the first time in a while there are more candidates than positions to be filled," Rosen said.