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UC Election Commission Error Forces Switch In Counting Method

By Steven S. Lee, Crimson Staff Writer

The Undergraduate Council Election Commission confirmed Tuesday night that it will change the voting system for the ongoing UC election from the traditional Hare-Clark method to a plurality method after the Commission inadvertently violated election rules by disallowing voters from ranking all three tickets.

In an email from the Election Commission to all UC presidential and vice presidential candidates shortly before 10 p.m. Monday, Commission chair Wesley K. Chen ’15 explained that his group had opened voting Monday at noon without allowing voters the option to rank tickets, as is the norm.

The Election Commission, whose members are confirmed by the Council but operate independently of the UC, runs all elections for the Council.

Part IX of the Commission’s Official Rules for Presidential Elections, the document that governs the November elections, mandates that voters must be allowed to preferentially rank all tickets and requires that the Commission tally votes according to the Hare-Clark voting system. Under that system, if the number of first-place votes for a single ticket does not constitute a majority, then the ticket with the lowest number of first-place votes is dropped and its votes are reassigned based on voters’ second choices. The process continues until a ticket claims a majority of the votes.

The Commission’s email, obtained by The Crimson, went on to propose that a plurality system be adopted. Under such a system, the ticket that receives the most votes wins.

Chen argued in the email that given the number of students who had already cast their ballots, an election do-over “would be a complete mess.” In an interview with The Crimson after the email was sent Tuesday night, Chen said that he believed both voting systems are “fair” and that there was no particular reason why one system should be preferred to another.

By 12 a.m. Wednesday, over 2500 undergraduates had already cast a ballot in the election, which features three UC tickets—Samuel B. Clark ’15 and Gus A. Mayopoulos ’15, C.C. Gong ’15 and Sietse K. Goffard ’15, and Chika-Dike O. Nwokike ’15 and Una Kim ’15—as well as four student-initiated referendum questions.

Chen confirmed that a representative from each of the three tickets had submitted an emailed statement fully agreeing to the switch in the vote tabulation model.

Chen also said that he was responsible for the error, explaining that he had been given no guidance from previous Commission chairs on how to operate the back end of the electronic voting infrastructure.

“The back end of the voting system was created quite a few years ago, and the access to the back end has been lost over time,” Chen said. “There was nothing regarding how to set it up.”

Based on conversations between the Commission and the UC, Chen said that the two bodies are considering making the plurality vote system permanent for future elections to avoid repeating the same mistake in years to come.

Electronic voting will close Thursday at noon, and election results are expected to be announced Thursday night.

—Staff writer Steven S. Lee can reached at steven.lee@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenSJLee.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: November 20, 2013

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Election Commission is a sub-group of the Undergraduate Council.

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