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Logistical issues delay results of student gov. election

BY RACHEL BRUSSTAR
Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 19, 2010

Though the polls for fall student government elections closed at midnight last night, the official results have yet to be determined due to logistical issues.

An Information Technology Services error made it difficult for School of Nursing students to vote in the election. In addition an unusually high number of exception ballots were cast overall. According to Michigan Student Assembly Election Director Sagar Deshpande, because many of the elections are extremely close, the exception ballots will have to be validated before official results can be released.

The exception ballots are those cast by students that for a variety of reasons were not on the official list of eligible voters, and therefore need to be verified by communication between ITS and the election director in determining which of the votes are valid. Those valid ballots will be converted to actual votes and counted toward the total.

According to an e-mail sent out by Deshpande last night, ITS loaded an incorrect eligibility list for the Nursing School election. Deshpande wrote in the e-mail that MSA officials discovered the error after some Nursing students reported that they were unable to vote and instead had to cast exception ballots.

In addition to extending the election for 24 hours, ITS plans to contact Nursing students to explain the error and provide instructions for how to vote, according to Deshpande's e-mail.

Deshpande added that officials will vet any exception ballots cast by Nursing students, and if the ballots are shown to be valid, then they'll be counted. In addition, Nursing students who cast their ballots won't be able to do so again.

In an interview last night, Deshpande said he is working with ITS to get an accurate projection of the number of student voters. He said the large crop of exception ballots made it difficult to determine the total number of voters.

In the student government election in March, 14 percent of the student body cast ballots. Last November, 9 percent of students voted.

As of 11:59 p.m. night, 11.9 percent — or 2,290 students — voted in the LSA Student Government elections. Of the 6,023 Engineering students who were eligible to vote in the University of Michigan Engineering Council election, 814 students voted. Of the 8,005 eligible Rackham student voters, 583 voted in the Rackham Student Government. However, because of the Nursing School and exception ballots issue, Deshpande said overall voter turnout for the election isn’t available yet.

While MSA, LSA-SG, UMEC and RSG have not collaborated in previous elections, the governing bodies worked together this election cycle in an attempt to significantly increase student voter turnout.

Rather than promoting one specific student government election, MSA, LSA-SG, UMEC and RSG urged students to vote through Facebook, e-mails and posting flyers around campus.

Last night, 32 representatives were elected to MSA.

The majority of candidates for LSA representatives to MSA came from the Defend Affirmative Action Party, MForward and Michigan Vision Party. Eleven candidates ran under the Defend Affirmative Action Party, 10 candidates ran under the MForward and six candidates ran under the Michigan Vision Party.

In the MSA all campus election, LSA senior Rebecca Egler of MForward was elected to fill the open position on the DPS Oversight Committee, according to unofficial results. The DPS Oversight Committee reviews grievances filed against the Department of Public Safety.

Five students campaigned for the position including LSA senior Cory Smith as the Serious Business Party candidate, Egler as the MForward candidate and independent candidates LSA freshman Christina Beckman, LSA sophomore David Baird and School of Public Health graduate student Katherine Murkowski.

This is the second student-wide election for the position. In previous years, MSA appointed student representatives to the position, but after an investigation by The Michigan Daily last year found the appointment procedure in violation of a state statute, MSA revised its election process.

In the LSA-SG election, 16 undergraduate students ran to fill the 10 open representative spots.

UMEC also elected 10 representatives to the council. According to unofficial results, Engineering senior Kunal Mehta was elected president of the UMEC and Engineering sophomore Claire Martin was elected vice president.

In the RSG election, 13 candidates were elected.