Coop Official Predicts Low Election Turnout
Ballots for the election of 11 student directors for the Harvard Cooperative Society (Coop) were mailed to eligible voters this week.
Sixteen candidates are competing for open positions on the board, which makes financial policy decisions for the student cooperative society. Several are pledging to offer more student input in future decisions, either through monthly newsletters or regular reports to student organizations.
Coop elections, however, have traditionally been known more for poor voter turnout than for innovative politics. Society Clerk and law professor William D. Andrews said past levels have been "disappointing," adding that a 20 percent response "is probably the right order of magnitude."
In interviews yesterday, candidates offered a variety of reasons for the poor response.
"Very few students are given a reason to be interested in the election," candidate Alex Edelstein '91 said. "Not enough people know about [the elections]."
Edelstein said he thought "an open debate could be a productive and popular action. Most students are completely in the dark as to what the Coop board is and what it does."
But Candidate Rick S. Louie '90, who attributes the poor response to lack of student interest, said the idea of a forum is well-intentioned but impractical.
"It would go too far because voters are so apathetic," Louie said. "I don't know if it's feasible."
"The poor turnout is due to the fact that [theeligible voters] have no idea what studentdirectors do," Louie added. "They figure the Coopwill run as it always has."
Another reason few students participate is thatmost do not have the time to examine the issuesand evaluate the candidates, said candidate TravisR. Metz '91.
"It takes up time in a situation where a lot ofpeople don't have time," Metz said. "It's ashame."
And according to Metz, the poor turnout meansboard members do not always reflect the views ofthe community.
"It doesn't take that much of a voter base towin," Metz said.
Student directors and voters must be Coopmembers, and they must be currently enrolled asdegree candidates at Harvard, the MassachusettsInstitute of Technology (MIT) or Harvard'sExtension Day School. Eleven of the candidates arenominated after interviews with Coop stockholders,and the rest must collect 100 signatures to beplaced on the ballot.
Ballots must be received by April 21. For theelection to be valid, no fewer than 5 percent ofeligible Coop members must vote.
Voters are asked to make several choices andindicate an order of preference. Candidates withmore than 1/12 of the first-preference votes aredeclared winners.
Excess votes are then assigned to secondpreferences. The candidate with the least votes isthen eliminated and ballots for that candidate arereassigned by second preference. This eliminationis continued until 11 students are selected.
Andrews said that the results of the studentdirector elections "come out very close to justtaking the 11 candidates with the most firstchoice votes.