The Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Reno elections opened today, and just like last year, the main thrust of the Elections Commission has been to get students to vote online through Webcampus. I’ll have interviews with 3 of the 4 executive candidates up sometime today, but before I do that, I’d like to point out something potentially devastating for the student government.
Students who go to vote on Webcampus today and tomorrow will see 3 options for ASUN President: Huili Weinstock, Richard Corn and None of the Above. It’s the same for Vice-President as well. While it seems like a non-issue, this same situation happened during the 2008 elections, which quickly turned ugly.
Quick history lesson: In 2008, incumbent President Eli Reilly ran against former Sen. Carmen Gilbert in a heated race. A Nevada Sagebrush endorsement article received more than 100 comments in about three days, and the election process was rife with mistakes and legal violations. Reilly defeated Gilbert by 11 votes, but the Elections Commission put a ‘none of the above’ option on the ballot, which 23 voters chose, which Gilbert argued placed neither candidate at a majority and nullified the election.
The ASUN Election Code states in Chapter 502, Section 15, letter E that:
NONE OF THE ABOVE: An option of “None of the Above” shall be placed at the bottom of the
ballot for each Senate college. In the event of this option receiving more votes than a candidate,
the candidate with the next highest amount of votes shall be elected.
Notice that the SAS doesn’t say anything about non-Senate ballots. Barring several hundred students voting for “None of the Above” in the executive races (which the Sagebrush apparently wants, according to their endorsement), their votes won’t mean anything. And if a situation like the one 2008 happens again with a close race, ASUN will go through the same circus that it did four years ago and once again possibly nullify the election.
Even though I doubt this election will be as close as the 2008 process, the fact remains that both situations are set up similarly, leading to a possibility of potential election violations. Any student who votes for “None of the Above” immediately is in a tricky legal spot.
Although it’s appalling that the ASUN Senate hasn’t really clarified this issue in the SAS, the blame lies on the shoulders of the extremely high turnover rate in all ASUN offices. Any organization with such short institutional knowledge is bound to repeat the mistakes of the past, barring proactive efforts by members. Evidently, they haven’t.
The Sagebrush is reporting the same thing, as well as issues with an incorrect number of senators to vote for. The article says:
The mistake could mean a run-off election for the colleges if the error alters the results, according to a statement from ASUN. More than 35 students from each college voted during the three-hour window. The margin of victory over the only losing College of Liberal Arts senator last year was 28 votes.