Staff Editorial

Elections flawed, reform necessary going forward

By The Polytechnic Editorial Board April 11, 2018

GM Week elections are the most important Student Government event of the year. They determine who will represent us and advocate for student interests. Given their outcome’s significance and ability to set the course of the year for all students at RPI, The Polytechnic is incredibly disappointed in the conduct and execution of the GM Week 2018 elections.

As we covered on Thursday, the ballots contained duplicate candidates and a candidate without the proper number of nominations. Polls were scheduled to open at 9 am, but the Elections Commission delayed them until 9:30 am so that they could scramble to add a faculty member and amendments to the Union Constitution, which they appeared to have overlooked. According to the GM Week 2018 Elections Handbook, “Prior to an election, a preliminary copy of the ballots for each class year will be posted. It is the responsibility of each candidate to ensure that their name appears and is accurate at least 24 hours prior to the election.” In a clear violation of this policy, the Elections Commission did not post ballots before the elections. If they had been posted on time, many of Thursday’s mistakes would likely have not been made.

At one point, the chairperson of the Elections Commission issued a sanction indicating unanimous approval of all members of the Commission who were present, but The Poly determined that the vote count and list of members present were falsified. Especially troubling is that at least three members of the Elections Commission also ran in elections that the Commission oversees; these members could have been involved in discussions and votes on their own sanctions. Such a conflict of interest shouldn’t occur, and steps should be taken to ensure candidates are not participating in the Elections Commission.

Another issue is that candidates may staff polling locations, as it is not prohibited by the Grand Marshal Week 2018 Elections Handbook. This introduces situations where the person who greets voters and provides assistance and information regarding the ballot, may be listed on that very ballot. The Poly witnessed voters asking what the Constitution amendments meant to the staff on location, who were tasked with giving an impartial explanation. However, one individual happened to be a member of the Graduate Council, which previously made a clear endorsement in support of the amendments. These situations should never occur—they can be avoided by barring candidates from staffing polling stations, as well as distributing full copies of the Union Constitution with Senate-approved, easy-to-understand breakdowns of what the amendments mean at the polling sites.

After outlining these issues, The Poly urges the Student Senate to take action to ensure the integrity of future elections. This could take the form of an ad-hoc committee tasked with reviewing what went wrong and creating recommendations to address the issues. It could take the form of a new, sufficiently motivated Elections Commission chairperson who will be critical of her own committee’s previous actions. Whatever the course, change is necessary, and it is up to the 49th Student Senate to ensure that these mistakes are not repeated.