Colorado College students voted in high numbers in an election plagued by I.T. glitches, vague constitutional bylaws, and overall confusion. The CC student body first voted on Friday, April 14 to elect the next executive members of the CC Student Government Association. After a technical glitch that prevented students studying abroad from voting was identified around 2:30 p.m. that Friday, the polls closed and a revote was scheduled for Monday, April 17. On Monday, the online survey used to vote malfunctioned, so a new survey was sent out at 11:15 a.m. Students then received emails clarifying that they must vote on the ballot sent at 11:15 a.m. and that the timeframe for voting was extended to 10:15 p.m. to allow the constitutionally required window of time. As a result of that election, a run-off election with the two leading candidates for president was held on Tuesday, April 18 after none of the presidential candidates received a majority vote on Monday.
The complications of four different ballots did not go unnoticed. “People kept coming up to me and being like ‘I voted for you three times! Is that okay?’” said President-Elect Dorsa Djalilzadeh. “Honestly, just vote on as many platforms as you can,” became her response.
Despite the complications, voter turnout proved the lasting commitment students had to electing the next Executive Council. 942 students, which is 44.5 percent of the student body, voted on Friday. 867 students voted in the revote on Monday, accounting for 40.9 percent of the student body. In the presidential run-off election on Tuesday between Djalilzadeh and junior Steven Ortega, 852 students voted, which is just over 40 percent of the student body. Election officials were pleasantly surprised by the high voter turnout. “We lost people on Monday, but then we still were up above 40 percent, which was phenomenal,” said Vice President of Internal Affairs and Election Committee Chair Victor Torres. “I was actually blown away.”
The decision to call a revote for Monday left CCSGA members questioning constitutional obligations in election issues. The Election Committee is designed to prevent unilateral action in election execution, yet the time restrictions for deciding whether to hold a revote on Monday or continue the election on Friday did not allow the Election Committee to meet. Instead, Torres, CCSGA President Annika Kastetter, and Senior Associate Dean of Students Rochelle Mason made the decision to hold a revote. Article V Section 5.03c of the CCSGA constitution requires that “The Election Committee must be comprised of members who have not and will not, in any way, endorse or campaign on behalf of any candidate.” Kastetter did officially endorse Djalilzadeh, but not until Tuesday morning, well after the Election Committee arrived at a decision to hold a revote.
“We found it unconstitutional for this to be a student election, and these [abroad] students not be able to participate in this election,” said Torres. “We [Torres, Mason, and Kastetter] decided to make the vote that we should have another election.” When asked why CCGSA held a revote instead of sending ballots only to the students studying abroad, Torres said “What ended up happening was it came down to a vote between Rochelle, myself, and Annika. [Sending ballots to students abroad] originally was my choice. However, what ended up being said was that it was unconstitutional, and that was completely fine with me. It was the decision that was made, and we went forward with it.” According to Torres, it was a decision that he, Mason, and Kastetter came to by voting among the three of them. However, Kastetter disagreed, saying that “the official decision was made by Victor and Rochelle.” This contradiction from high-level CCSGA executives leaves uncertainty surrounding the question of who served what role in choosing a revote.
Again, CCGSA faced confusion when the question of whether the election should be continued Friday or postponed to Monday arose in the Executive Council group chat, which election candidates who currently hold executive positions could see and contribute to. According to Article 5, Section 5.03k of the constitution, “Students who are seeking election may not participate in the administration of the election process.” This election bylaw requires that candidates have no role in the administration of election procedures even if they currently hold positions in CCSGA. Nonetheless, some candidates were at least aware of the situation and had the platform to contribute to the decision-making process. Candidates Ariel Fillion and Steven Ortega, who currently serve on the executive council, had an unequal advantage because of their access to information during the election process. “When things come up, we try to talk to exec. about it first,” said Kastetter. “And to be frank, there hasn’t been a clear protocol for establishing when things like this come up. So I think that this was kind of a first-time experience in figuring out how we handle this situation.”
Looking to Djalilzadeh’s upcoming administration, current CCSGA members are working to codify procedures and protocols to avoid the confusion of the past election. With yearly turnover in executive positions and a president new to CCGSA coming into office for the second year in a row, the need for a rigorous transition process is clear. In the case of elections, Torres is working to improve processes for future Election Committee Chairs.
“What ends up happening is that students who are studying abroad aren’t considered enrolled students; they’re considered affiliates,” Torres said. “This has been an issue occurring for a long time. I’m trying to edit the bylaws and constitution to state in there that students who study abroad need to be included in there. Now we can fix a problem that should have been fixed long ago.”