Over 1/3 of freshman class unnotified of election re-run

The redo elections for Class of 2023 president, vice-president, and representatives took place online through Simply Voting from May 13 to 15, but more than 650 freshmen were not notified that the election was happening.

These elections had to be redone due to issues with the Grand Marshal week elections, namely that the Elections Commission misclassified students who enrolled at Rensselaer in the Fall Semester as freshmen. Due to this, around 300 graduate students received freshman ballots, causing the Elections Commission to necessitate a redo election for all freshmen positions except Senator.

Only students who were freshmen by credit cohort—meaning students who held up to 30 credits—received an email from the Elections Commission on Wednesday. This email announced the redo elections and included a link to a Simply Voting ballot. Freshmen whose credits exceeded the freshman credit limit did not receive the email, and therefore did not receive the ballot, so they could not vote through Simply Voting.

The Student Government Election Policy outlines that a student’s class year can be determined by either the number of credits a student has or their entry year cohort. Class year designation determines the elections each student can participate in.

According to Adams, the list of students the Elections Commission received for this election through the Union Feed contained only those who were within the freshman credit limit. Therefore, 1088 students received an email with a ballot, though the Class of 2023 cohort is around 1750 students.

Elections Commission Chairperson Keenan Adams ’21 explained to The Polytechnic in a Facebook message that if “anyone contacted me about it [the redo election], they were given a ballot.” There was no communication with freshman students regarding the write-in ballots the Elections Chair administered upon request.

There was a similar issue during April’s GM Week elections, which were also hosted through Simply Voting. During those elections, any student who wanted to vote by their entry year cohort rather than their credit cohort had to submit a Google Form, which did not provide the anonymity of Simply Voting.

In an email to presidential candidate Harshil Patel ’23, Adams explained that the Elections Commission wanted the freshman revote “to match the other elections as [much as] possible.”

Simply Voting as a platform does not provide the option to choose a class cohort, and according to Grand Marshal Advaith Narayan ’21, although the feature is being developed by Simply Voting, it “hasn’t been completed yet.”

When The Polytechnic asked Adams about the advertising efforts undertaken by the Elections Commission about promoting the redo elections for the Class of 2023, he explained that the Elections Commission mentioned the need to redo the Class of 2023 elections in the GM Week elections email revealing election results. The email stated that the Class of 2023 “will be contacted by the Elections Commission with information about how to vote for these positions in the coming weeks,” with no other details.

Adams also said: “there was no email list that I have access to that I could guarantee fully encompasses every valid registered freshman.” The Rensselaer Union Systems Administrators indeed did not release a Class of 2023 mailing list. A mailing list for the class would encompass all of the students within the 2023 cohort and would allow the class president and the grand marshal to send emails to the entire cohort.

In an email to The Polytechnic, Narayan said: “had this re-do election happened in any other week ... I would have had the foresight to pursue more active advertising,” calling the absence of advertising a “lack of oversight on my part.” Narayan also explained that he stays “as removed from elections as possible,” because the Election Commission is “meant to be an autonomous and unbiased body in running the elections.”

Presidential candidate Scott Schwartz ’23 found out that redo elections had been underway after The Poly reached out for comment about how the elections were run. Schwartz mentioned the last contact he had with Adams was on May 3, when the decision to hold a revote was announced.

Patel learned about the election when his unofficial running mate, Faizah Rabbye, shared the email announcing the rerun of the election with him.

According to Rabbye, who runs the Class of 2023 Instagram page, around 40% of students polled on the Class of 2023 Instagram story did not receive a ballot for the rerun election. However, the Instagram page is open to the general public and anyone, freshman or not, could have voted.

Schwartz said he is “not satisfied with the communication” between the Election Commission and the Class of 2023. Patel called the communication “broken” and expressed hope that the Class of 2024 would not be “treated in the same way as we were.”

Tonight, election results were released, and the Rensselaer community has 24 hours—until 6:32 pm tomorrow—to submit a written request to the Elections Commission (rne-chair@union.lists.rpi.edu) for recounts, challenges, and other inquiries.