You and the rest of America thought the Florida elections were thoroughly confusing, but just wait. Next quarter, Associated Students will be holding its annual Spring Elections so you can select the student body officers for the 2001-02 academic year. Currently, the A.S. elections committee has been forming the first-ever Elections Code (E-Code) to clarify and reform the current election procedures and rules. This E-Code proposal will be at the desk of the A.S. Legislative Council for final approval TODAY. This sounds like a good change, right? But I want to warn you and A.S. that the current proposal to elect your student body officers is not only confusing, but in many ways makes the value of your vote close to nil. Let’s break it down on how your vote DOES NOT COUNT.
First, the proposal is seeking to change the way you will vote for your next A.S. president and three vice presidents. The constitution clearly states that a candidate can only be named the winner if she or he receives a majority vote of 50 plus 1 percent. So, if no candidates receive the required percentage of votes to win the election, the two highest vote-getters go to a special “run-off” election. However, the Elections Committee would be practicing ill usage of the constitutionally required “run-off” procedures by selecting a winner on a numbering system rather than on student votes.
In the E-Code, there is a proposal to have a ranking system for electing candidates, which eliminates the need for a separate run-off election. Suppose there are presidential candidates A, B, C and D. You vote for candidate A as your first choice and candidate B as your second choice. But in the outcome of the election, candidates C and D get the highest number of votes. Those two candidates would get new voting totals because only the two candidates receiving the highest number of first-choice votes will be considered in the immediate run-off. Those ballots where the first choice does not advance to the run-off will be considered using the second-choice candidates (or backup candidate). Those ballots whose second-choice candidates made it to the runoff will be added to that candidate’s total. Once all eligible second-choice votes are accounted for, new totals for the top two candidates will be determined. The candidate with the most votes, including first-choice and eligible-second votes, will be elected to office.
More simply, according to the E-Code, when there is a runoff, students who did not vote for the two highest vote-getters lose their vote to select the executive officers. The current run-off system allows students to make a choice from a plethora of candidates and then select from a narrower choice of two candidates. But in the E-Code, your vote becomes ineligible and lost in the new tallying system. Your vote DOES NOT COUNT.
Also, if you are a student studying abroad in the Educational Abroad Program or UCDC program, you cannot vote by absentee ballot. Although the A.S. By-Laws state that “absentee ballots shall be made available to all undergraduate students,” according to the new E-Code, if you cannot physically prove that you are a currently registered student of UCSB, then you cannot vote. What is even more shocking is that even if you can prove that you are a currently registered student, you only have five school days before the elections to return your absentee ballot. Imagine being a student studying in China, France or Australia. You can’t mail in your vote in time thus your vote on student body officers and monetary lock-in fee decisions DOES NOT COUNT.
As a former member of the Elections Committee I have tried to raise these concerns over the E-Code, but they have been ignored in the decision-making process. The Elections Committee chose to hold meetings when some members were in class, they did not notify all voting members of an emergency meeting, and the other members were unwilling to seriously consider my viewpoint on issues. Therefore, I feel I have no choice but to openly warn everyone about these upcoming elections. I cannot allow the elections process to silence your voice and your vote. Join me in changing the process to work for you!
Didn’t the Florida fiasco prove that every vote should count? If you believe that your vote counts, then let your representatives know. Go to the Legislative Council meeting in the UCen Flying A Studio room TODAY at 6:30 p.m. Otherwise you will let others make the decisions for you.
Vicky N. Leung is the A.S. Academic Affairs Board chair and former A.S. Elections Committee representative-at-large. She is a senior global studies major.