The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 63.0°F | Partly Cloudy

Referendum voting policy draws criticism

Monday, I went to Lobby 10 to vote in the Undergraduate Association referenda. After getting into the several-minute line, the student ahead of me said this was the line for Course Evaluation Guides. Because it also seemed clear that it was the voting line, I asked her about it, and she told me you had to vote to get the CEG. This struck me as extremely illegitimate. It reminded me of the Soviet Union's technique of giving ration cards out at polling places so that they could brag about 99 percent voter turnout.

When I reached the head of the line and spoke with the UA representatives, I complained about the policy. They told me that students who insisted on not voting did not have to. However, they did not see any impropriety in letting students believe that they had to vote to receive the guide.

Election commissioner David L. Atkins Jr. '90 told me that the CEG is a service provided by the UA, implying they should be able to make the students jump through whatever hoops they wanted. (As a two-term assistant editor of the other guide -- the Underground Guide to Course VI -- such an attitude seemed strange. We're happy to give out our guide, no strings attached.) They said that their primary purpose in checking ID's was to limit the CEG's distribution to undergraduates, but they admitted they thought nothing wrong with taking advantage of the set-up to get people to vote who would not have otherwise.

At a time when the UA's claim to represent the undergraduate student body has been seriously injured by extremely low voter turnouts, inflating election participation is disgraceful. An association that respects its constituents does not trick them into voting. If the UA brags about its higher-than-normal participation in this referendum, you'll know how they achieved the results.

Ellen Spertus '90->