But it isn’t just accuracy that gets lost when voters are deprived of their ability to abstain; when campus-wide referenda and presidential/vice-presidential elections are conducted on the same electronic ballot, a voter who may want to abstain from voting on the question of their student government leadership, but who feels strongly about one or more of the referendum questions, is unable to cast a vote on the latter while declining to participate in the former. It isn’t hard to imagine, for instance, that a given student might feel that the distinction between renewable and exhaustible energy is more significant than the differences between Matthew J. Glazer ’06, Teo P. Nicolais ’06 and Tracy “Ty” Moore II ’06. The present council electoral system, however, does not allow for that sentiment. There are two possible outcomes: either voters choose their council presidential picks arbitrarily so that they can have their say on the other ballot questions, or they vote on neither issue and are left out of the democratic process by the dynamics of an unfairly-conducted election. It goes without saying that neither of these end-results is in the least desirable, either for the student who is forced to choose between them, or by the larger University community that is made to live with the consequences of that forced choice (in the form of lower participation rates, a weakened democratic system and uninformed or even random voting). To keep from participating in an election, or to force an unfair decision on voters who are unwilling or (understandably) unable to distinguish between presidential platforms, but who feel that the question of Harvard’s using renewable energy is important, is undemocratic and even irrational.
There is no question that the choice of council leadership is an important one, but the present system, which fails to allow for voters not wanting or not able to distinguish between basically identical campaign platforms, mischaracterizes a group of Harvard students whose self-removal from the electoral process is distinct from mere apathy and undemocratically deprives them of a voice. No one stands to benefit from that over-simplification.
Adam Goldenberg ’08, a Crimson editorial comper, lives in Grays Hall.