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Turnout in the Undergraduate Association elections rose this year, with at least 1,930 votes tallied as of last evening, according to Ainsley K. Braun ’10, the UA Election Commissioner. Paper ballots are available today in Lobby 10 for those who haven’t voted online.

This year’s UA President candidate pool was enlarged at the last minute with help from Braun, who helped one slate gather signatures on their elections petition as the filing deadline loomed.

Last year, 1,847 students voted in the UA election for president and vice president. According to Braun, there were still votes coming in late last evening. “In the past five minutes, we’ve had about ten more people vote,” she said. Braun estimated that upwards of 100 more students might vote online.

Martin F. Holmes ’08, the current UA President, said he had been hoping for at least 2,000 voters this year — about 50 percent of eligible students — and that it looked like the UA would reach that goal.

Holmes attributed the increase in turnout to the highly competitive, controversial field this year. “The controversies … certainly drove a bigger turnout,” said Holmes, specifically mentioning dorm e-mail list discussions. Most of the dorm mailing list debates focused on an e-mail from Akash A. Chandawarkar ’09 in which he suggested randomized freshman housing as part of a UA Senate request for brainstorming.

Holmes added that the large number of candidates also led to a competitive election: “There were four tickets … meaning an extended network of friends and people telling people to vote,” said Holmes.

But the election pool wasn’t always quite so competitive. On Wednesday, March 19 — two days before the petition deadline — the field of UA presidential and vice presidential candidates was alarmingly uncertain.

As of that Wednesday, Chandawarkar had lost his running mate, Noah S. Jessop ’09, who had decided to run on his own, said Braun. “Akash picked up [running mate] Amanda [J. Maguire ’09] at the end of Wednesday night,” Braun said.

The Jason Forte ’09 / Brittany Holland-Marcus ’10 pair decided to run that night and hadn’t yet collected any signatures, said Holmes. Candidates must file a petition with “the signatures of between ten and fifteen percent of all undergraduates,” according to the UA’s elections code.

As a result, Braun helped the ticket complete signatures for their election petition — an activity typically reserved for the candidates. Braun said that she was collecting signatures because Forte was heading out of town, and that having more candidates increased the competitiveness of the election.

Braun said that Jason “just needed a lot more people to help him,” and that she didn’t advocate for Forte/Holland-Marcus or tell signatories that she was supporting the pair as the election commissioner.

Holmes said that Braun’s signature collection “clearly sounds suspicious [but] … it’s pretty clear to me that she wasn’t electioneering … though it could’ve come off that way.”

Holmes added that “the intent was to get more candidates on the ballot and create more competition,” describing how Forte/Holland-Marcus entered the race “extremely late.”

“Jason flew down to Miami and so he asked a few people to … go around and … collect the necessary signatures,” said Holmes.

There was also one late petition for the election, said Braun, but the petition wasn’t completed.

Ultimately, four candidate pairs emerged: Forte and Holland-Marcus; Jessop and Michael A. Bennie ’10; Chandawarkar and Maguire; and Bradley H. Gampel ’09 and Willard J. Johnson ’09.

Hanging chad?

Paper voting appears to be here to stay, despite the limited number of voters that opt for a paper ballot. “There are a lot of people who think that our e-mails are spam … or just forget [to vote],” said Braun.

About 30 paper ballots were cast during the fall 2007 Senate and Class Council elections.

The paper ballots also offer an opportunity to those who have trouble voting online. In years past, a handful of problems have cropped up with online voting. Last year, a power outage led to downtime and there were allegations that sophomores who moved into Greek houses were unable to vote.

This year, however, has been pretty smooth, according to Braun. “We did have one bug originally … [that affected] quite a few people right off the bat,” said Braun, but that bug was fixed within a few minutes by Joseph W. Presbrey ’08, who runs the voting Web site. Braun added that occasional mixups occur when people move residences or take a year off.