Devereaux Elected UA President
Election Draws Largest Turnout In Eight Years
ASSOCIATE FEATURES EDITOR
The undergraduate population elected Jaime E. Devereaux ’02 and Allison L. Neizmik ’02 Undergraduate Association President and Vice President last week.
A total of 1,726 students voted in the election, approximately 40 percent of the student body. Online votes accounted for 1,518 of those votes. Election Commissioner Zhelinrentice L. Scott ’99 said “this is the second largest voter turnout in history.”
Scott attributes the heavy voter turnout to the huge effort the Election Commission and the MIT community put forth to advertise the election and pre-election activities via word of mouth, regular and drop posters, MIT cable, Lecture Series Committee Slides, and a spotlight on web.mit.edu.
“I think the Election Commission worked really hard getting the word out.” said President-elect Devereaux. “They did as much as they could to get information out to the voters. They put the platforms on the web and planned all the debates. They did a really good job.”
Vice President-elect Neizmik attributes the high voter turnout to the Election Commission as well, saying “they did a good job publicizing.”
This is the first time since MIT has been keeping record that both offices have been filled by women.
Neizmik said she believes that one of the main reasons they won was that there were “a lot of people behind us,” and added that their friends’ “word of mouth was a great asset.”
Devereaux also believes that their success is due to their accessibility to their constituency. “I think we were good about having conversations with people and answering their questions,” she said.
According to Devereaux, the main issue she and Neizmik are focusing on is student input and increasing interaction between students and the UA. “We want to get more students interested and involved,” said Devereaux, “so that the UA is more effective as a representative body.”
They are also working on expanding Saferide and getting more funding for events -- especially large events -- because “they add to the community by involving broad and diverse groups of students,” Devereaux said. They are also planning to get more input from students about MIT’s dining program.
Election system underwent change
There were several very large changes made to the UA election process this year.
One change was the school-wide election of UA Councilors. Prior to this year, each dormitory and the Interfraternity Council (IFC) separately elected its own representatives to the UA Council. This year the candidates for councilors submitted an application to the Election Commission and were elected through the UA election system.
Scott believes that electing councilors school-wide works really well. “I think it gives students a huge mandate,” Scott said. “For instance, IFC councilor Bruce Au received 118 votes. He has a huge backing. I think students both inside and outside the UA will realize what an awesome responsibility and honor it is to be on council.”
The 2001 Election Commission also hired pollster Aaron B. Strauss ’02, an unprecedented decision.
Strauss offered the poll to all the UAP/VP candidates and The Tech. Presidential candidate Sanjay K. Rao ’02 and the Election Commission bought the poll.
Scott said that “when the commission received the poll on March 4 Strauss explained that the higher the voter turnout, the higher the likelihood of Rao winning. However, if the publicity was too low, that would increase the possibility of Devereaux and Neizmik winning due to the loyalty and size of their ‘certain to vote’ base.”
Scott said that the results of the election proved the poll was incorrect. The voter turnout was very large and there was a lot of publicity, which the poll indicated would mean that Rao should have won.
Write -in candidates win posts
Eleven write-in candidates won positions in the UA elections. Some of the candidates actively campaigned; others did not even know that they were running.
Alvin M. Lin ’04 ran as a write-in candidate for 2004 Class Treasurer. Lin said that “I knew that it would be difficult for me to win as a write-in candidate, but I thought that it was important to have another candidate available. I was especially disappointed that the candidate running for 2004 Treasurer did not have a platform.”
Several new officers were elected by a couple of their friends. Marlita N. Taylor ’03 was elected publicity chair for the class of 2003 with two votes.
Taylor said she was elected on a whim. “I went to vote with my friends and no one was running, so my friends said, ‘Let’s vote for Marlita.’”
A similar thing happened to Julie M. Pinkston ’04, who is now councilor-elect for Baker. She did not intend to run, but her roommates wrote her in, and she won.
When asked what she thought of getting the position without running Pinkston said, “I think its just kinda funny that it happened, but it is sad that no one else ran.”
Kelly N. Zimmerman ’04 is also councilor-elect for Baker and was officially on the ballot.
Zimmerman was glad that Pinkston was elected because “I was afraid I would have to do it by myself.” While she is generally in favor of the write-in policy of voting she feels that “it doesn’t portray candidates accurately,” because if the candidate had been on the ballot, she would have received a lot more votes.
“If you are the only person on the ballot then you’ll probably get the position,” Zimmerman said, which she feels is not necessarily the best system.
Scott feels that the public needs to take more responsibility for running for office. “Every year the MIT undergraduate community knows that the elections are coming up, and still people fail to make up their minds and turn in a petition on time. People had plenty of time to think about it, so if a person decided at the last minute that they want to fill a position that the entire community had months and months to think about I think it’s great. I am happy to see people wanting to get involved.”
Recommendations for next year
Scott had a couple of recommendations for the 2002 Election Commission to help the elections run smoother. A lot of changes were made to the process this year, but Scott felt that improvements could still be made.
“I would recommend that they have a couple of meetings with the candidates to make sure that all the candidates understand why debates should occur,” Scott said.
This was the first year the the presidential candidates of each class, and not just the UAP/VP, got to debate.
In addition, Scott said, “I want next year’s Election Commission to always be fair, and just.”
This year there was some discussion about Scott’s own impartiality, but she recused herself and said that she “was not even present when the ballots were counted.”
Scott’s final advice to the next Election Commission was, “Focus on the issues that face the students.”
The complete UA election results are available online at http://web.mit.edu/ua/elections/officalresults.htm