March 31, 2006

New Trustee Earned Most Votes Prior to Candidate Disqualifications

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Mao Ye grad, who was announced as the new student trustee this week after two of his opponents were disqualified, earned more votes than the other candidates even before the disqualifications were taken into account, according to vote totals released by the Office of Assemblies.

Of the 3047 votes counted, they were distributed in the initial count with 886 for Mao Ye grad, 825 for Joe Rudnick ’08, 496 for Dave Kurczewski grad and 840 for Ray Taylor ’07.

The votes were tabulated by Election Trust, an outside vendor, using the Hare-Clarke system, meaning that second and third choices were taken into account in the results.

“When you have a Hare system election, it’s important to vote your entire preference,” said faculty trustee Kathleen Rasmussen, chair of the Trustee Nominating Committee and professor in nutritional science.

In this system, the votes of the candidate with the fewest votes in the initial count are added among the remaining three according to second choices. The process is then repeated until all of the preferences have been accounted for and a winner is selected.

In this election, Rudnick was disqualified resulting in his 825 votes being added to the other three candidates according to their second choices and then Taylor was subsequently withdrawn from the race with his votes going to the remaining two candidates according to their third choices.

In the end, Ye was elected with 1389 votes over Kurczewski’s 1216.

About 15 percent of the total votes were “exhausted” meaning that they did not contribute to Ye or Kurczewski because these voters had not given third or fourth choices or had not included either of the two candidates in their preferences.

“I don’t think there is a problem with the voting system,” said David Cameron, interim assemblies coordinator. “It’s just important for voters to fill out all of the boxes because this is an example of how those other boxes do make a difference.”

Fewer Options

With the disqualification of two student trustee candidates, students were essentially casting their votes for one of two candidates.

“The Trustee Nominating Committee really did a disservice to the Cornell community by disqualifying 50 percent of the candidates over a technicality in the rules,” Rudnick said.

According to a statement released by the committee, Rudnick was disqualified for connections to the Clean Slate ticket and Taylor was disqualified for improper use of mailing lists and affiliation with the “University Voice coalition.

Associate Ombudsman Ronald A. Bricker hears appeals to challenges made against the candidates but the final decisions regarding the challenges rest with the committee members. In a letter Bricker wrote to the committee and candidates, he said: “Rudnick and Taylor … after investing substantial effort in the election process, both were disqualified through the application of rules which are problematic … As the rules currently stand, the actions of individuals over whom candidates have no real control can result in their disqualification.”

Rudnick suggested allowing an independent party – for example, the ombudsman – to decide on appeals rather than the committee members.

He said that the rule under which he was disqualified was designed to dissociate student trustee elections from other elections and the real way to accomplish this would be to hold the trustee elections at a completely different time from Student Assembly elections.

According to Rasmussen, the committee will discuss the possibility of holding the two elections at different times in its upcoming meeting.

Another member of the committee, Michael Walsh grad said “It was clear that [the two candidates] were loosely affiliated with slates and there was evidence received from each candidate that they were affiliated with slates … I think that by separating the two elections we won’t run into the same problem.”

He added, “if the two candidates had not challenged each other, we would’ve had nothing in front of us … to use as evidence to disqualify them.”

Student Trustee Doug Mitarotonda grad agreed with the idea of separating the two elections.

“If [the elections] are on different dates, it’s harder to tie the elections together, which was one of the reasons the candidates were disqualified,” he said.

With the election of Ye as the second student trustee, both student representatives to the Board of Trustees will be graduate students. Mitarotonda said that it’s not ideal situation, but that until recently there have always been two undergraduate student trustees.

Rudnick suggested creating two undergraduate trustee seats and one graduate student trustee position to better represent the Cornell community.

Archived article by Vanessa Hoffman
Sun City Editor