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Voter Turnout Is Up In a Clean Election For Senate, ’09 Class

By Kirtana Raja

Undergraduate Association elections for the 2009 Class Council and UA Senate concluded last week with voter turnout that, while low, was higher than last year’s. This year, 29.9 percent voted, an increase from 20.2 percent in 2004 and 24.2 percent in 2003.

The newly-elected members of the Class of 2009 Council are President Akash A. Chandawarkar, Vice President Samuel H. Poon, Secretary Deepika Singh, Treasurer Alexander G. Alford, Social Chairs Jeremy E. Smith and Tina P. Srivastava, and Publicity Chairs TingTing Luo and Wendy Wen.

Also elected were 27 UA Senators representing all of the campus dormitories, off-campus students, and fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups.

Though voter turnout was at a recent high, the average UA Senator was elected by only 12 percent of the voting population in his or her constituency.

A total of 1,227 votes were cast for 47 official and 450 distinct write-in candidates. The election was one of the cleanest in recent memory, with no major foul play during campaigning said UA Election Commissioner Tiffany L. Seto ’06.

Longer election timeline for 2005

Seto said that this year’s increased voter turnout could be a result of a longer period of time for candidates to collect petition signatures. In previous years, freshmen class council and senatorial candidates were given petition packets at a meeting in early September and then had to submit signatures a week later.

This year, candidates were given an extra week to gather signatures, with petition packets due Sept. 20. More than half of the official candidates signed up after the initial deadline was extended, however.

More official candidates ran this year than in previous years, with every dormitory and FSILG having at least one official candidate. Seto said that having more official candidates could also have contributed to the increased voter turnout.

Official candidates who submitted platforms adhering to the UA rules had their platforms posted on the UA Web site prior to elections. According to Seto and Technical Coordinator Gary L. Sivek ’06, some candidates did not have platforms posted because they failed to adhere to the UA committee rules concerning the correct format for platforms.

Some choose to vote with FSILGs

Another change to this year’s election was that students with both FSILG and dormitory affiliations were allowed to choose a constituency with which to vote, a rule approved by the UA Senate last spring. These students were first randomly assigned to a constituency, evenly divided between dormitories and FSILGs, then given the opportunity to change their designation.

Sivek said that few people chose to change their designation, and while McCormick Hall did lose one senator from the new rules, any other small changes would not have affected constituency sizes; however, they “arguably would have made a difference” in the close IFC senator elections.

Though complete statistics were unavailable on the number of students changing their designation, Sivek said that most of those who did change their designation chose to vote by FSILG affiliation rather than by residence. Including those students who were assigned a designation by default, 230 students were able to vote by residence and 317 by affiliation.

While problems the election commission typically encounters with obtaining accurate residence information were mitigated by the later deadlines, obtaining the list of students with two affiliations from all FSILGs caused some difficulties, Sivek said.

Seto said that she was able to easily compile this information for all of the sororities and ILGs, as well as for all of the freshman pledges for the fraternities. However, only 12 fraternities provided complete responses regarding upperclass brothers with two affiliations, so not all of them were given the opportunity to change their defaulted designation, Seto said. This number was small, Sivek said.

Seto said that this is the cleanest election that she has ever witnessed during her experience on the UA Election Commission. “There was not any major foul play in campaigning that was brought to my attention,” Seto said. The only instance of incorrect campaigning was when two write-in candidates sent e-mail to all of the house mailing lists to campaign for votes, she said.

This year 1,160 students voted online while 67 students chose to submit their votes on a paper ballot. Compared to both 2004 and 2003 UA elections, the number of online voters was significantly higher, while the number of paper ballots was lower.

To see the breakdown of vote distributions in the election’s preferential voting system, go to the Web site http://web.mit.edu/elections/Fall05/results.shtml.

Marissa Vogt contributed to the reporting of this story.