October 1, 2020

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: In Light of Voter Disenfranchisement, S.A. Directors of Elections Call For Action

Print More

To the Editor:

We are currently in the midst of the Fall 2020 Student Assembly Election, and as Co-Directors of Elections this semester, we feel it is pertinent to address the voter disenfranchisement that is currently unfairly occurring.

We were recently made aware that the ballots for races that use rank choice voting are only valid if the voter ranks all candidates running in that race. This means that if someone only ranks one person, and not the rest of the candidates listed, their ballot for that particular race will be marked as invalid and their votes will not be cast.

This is not a new rule. Votes have been tabulated this way for years in past S.A. elections. However, we do not feel comfortable with allowing this method of tabulating votes to continue, considering that many voters did not know about this rule and had their votes wrongly dismissed. Furthermore, the S.A. charter reads on line 226 that “Voters may rank all candidates on the ballot for each of these races.” Because the language reads says ‘may’ and not ‘must,’ we believe the current way that votes are being tabulated is in direct conflict with our charter.

Yesterday, we sent a message to the S.A.  as well as an email to all candidates running in this election to remind them of the way the votes are tabulated. We felt that disseminating the information as soon as possible was better than voter disenfranchisement happening with no one knowing. We wanted to bring awareness to this issue of disenfranchisement and allow candidates to alert voters.

We are very disappointed in the lack of accountability that has allowed this particular rule to invalidate ballots. We are, quite frankly, shocked that this is the first time this issue is coming to light. For example, in the Spring 2019 presidential election, 1,435 votes were rendered invalid because of this particular rule and other rules that invalidate a ballot. In that same year, the executive vice president race had 1,761 invalid ballots. In an election with approximately 6,000 voters, this is a significant proportion. The S.A. should have recognized this as an issue and worked to rectify it. We recognize the frustration that many of our fellow students feel and are working to amend this issue.

We call on the Office of the Assemblies, the administrative office that oversees all of the University’s assemblies, to optimally count all ballots currently submitted regardless of whether or not the voter ranked all candidates for the particular race. If this is not possible, we call for a revote from Oct. 5 at 12 p.m., to Oct. 7 at 2 p.m. We feel these two options are the only way to have a fair, legitimate and honest election. Further, we call on the next Assembly to look into this policy and amend the charter as necessary to prevent future voter disenfranchisement.

Moriah Adeghe ’21

Savanna Lim ’21

Co-Directors of Elections, Cornell Student Assembly