SGA’ Technological Challenge Voting for Senators

In the midst of planning a months long student-fundraising campaign for the Suter Science Center renovation project, two important SGA Senate positions were up for re-election this month. But the three candidates running for office had their own election-day false call when SGA co-presidents Christine Baer and Carissa Harnish effectively nullified the vote less than two hours after announcing the winners on Saturday, Jan. 18.

SGA brainstorming during their spring retreat this past weekend.

SGA brainstorming during their spring retreat this past weekend.

The problem at issue is a familiar one to the SGA: how to facilitate student body involvement in the student government political process? More specifically, what is the easiest way to engage students in electing their representatives to the SGA?

“[SGA] has used a variety of methods [for voting] in the past,” according to co-president Baer. “We tried paper ballots in the Campus Center but turn-out was very low – it was a failure of method.”

Normal SGA procedure in Senate and other elections is done with the help of EMU’s Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, using their online survey tool. Occasionally, however, SGA has experimented with its own online polling tools – a process which has backfired more than once. “This kind of thing has happened a few times over the years,” admits Baer.

The problem with the election called on Jan. 18 was twofold: lack of technological surety made voter verification impossible, and security was potentially compromised by loopholes in the online survey tool being utilized. “Non EMU’ers and non-undergrads could vote and we had no idea how many actual student voters there were,” Baer claimed Monday. There was no indication that voting fraud had occurred.

Baer and Harnish denied that the mistake might hurt perceptions of SGA’s legitimacy among the student body.

Harnish pointed out the need to follow procedure emphasizing that “[students need to know] that constitutionally, [senators] need to be elected by valid votes.”

Without placing blame, Harnish and Baer hope to learn from the experience and move forward with SGA operations.

“Traditionally the Vice-president for Marketing [Charlie Good] creates the form,” said Harnish, “but we will be recommending that future student leaders use the Institutional Research method for elections.”

-Evan Knappenberger, Staff Writer; photo provided by SGA

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