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UA Preferential Voting Bill Tabled by Senate

Senate Plans a Broad Review of Election Code

By Beckett W. Sterner

EDITOR IN CHIEF

The Undergraduate Association Senate voted to table a bill allowing preferential voting for write-in candidates this Monday in favor of instituting a broader review of the elections code as a whole.

The vote was 15 to 7 with 4 abstentions to table the bill, which would have allowed voters to write in and rank up to fifteen unofficial candidates on one ballot.

This fall’s Senate election ran into difficulties with limits imposed on the preferential ranking of write-in candidates, especially in the case of East Campus, which fielded no official candidates but eight write-ins. To vote for a write-in, students must write their name on a blank line on the ballot. Only one blank is provided, however, and voters were allowed to vote for only one write-in candidate.

East Campus Senator Jessica H. Lowell ’07, who proposed the bill, said during the Senate meeting that the problem is “worth doing something about now” rather than waiting for a general overhaul later.

While some of the discussion of the bill concerned limiting the privileges given to write-ins as unofficial candidates, Lowell said that the preferential voting system “shouldn’t be based so much on whether we should or should not discourage write-in candidates.”

“That’s not how they do it in the city of Cambridge,” which also holds elections for City Councillors by preferential vote, she said.

Simmons Senator Andrew T. Lukmann ’07 said that “the idea of just rushing in a bill last week wasn’t great, but [the issue is] going to be definitely considered” in the future.

Lukmann, a former member of the elections committee, said he thinks “that basically the number of write in candidates is the only disadvantage to being a write in candidate,” referring to the one blank space for write-ins.

“Otherwise you can just work outside the system anyway,” he said, making enforcing campaign violations more difficult.

UA considers overhaul

Following the vote to table the bill, the Senate requested the formation of an ad hoc committee to reevaluate the elections code.

Senate Speaker Rose A. Grabowski ’05 said that she will prepare a charter giving the goals and membership of the committee to be approved by the Senate for the next meeting on Oct. 25.

Grabowski said that some of the issues the committee may address include considering why someone would become an official candidate if write-ins have similar privileges, rethinking the compressed fall elections schedule, and what the Senate considers dormitories’ constituencies to be now that many freshmen leave MIT housing after their first year.

She said that the UA had moved the Senate vote from spring term to the beginning of fall term in 2002 after the change to all freshmen living on campus. The fall vote would then avoid the conflict of freshmen voting when they were about to move out from their dormitories.

Lukmann said that the decision to move the elections did not consider the possible repercussions on campaigning and would need to be reevaluated.