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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Get your facts straight before you raise a ‘hoot’

Published: September 22, 2006
Section: Opinions

I am very disappointed about two pieces from the Septr th issue of The Hoot: David Peposes news story, Voting system failure in close Treasurer Race and the papers editorial, Democracy in jeopardy.

Both articles had blatant factual inaccuracies that unduly malign members of the Brandeis community and mislead students about the Student Union election system. The editorial claims that the online election system is nothing more than a fairly straightforward electronic counter, nothing could be further from the truth.

I have had both the honor and the headache of serving as an elections commissioner in a half dozen elections, and nobody knows better than the other commissioners and I how annoying the current system can be – and how difficult it would be to replace.

A Student Union election system needs to allow thousands of students to securely and anonymously cast ballots, taking into account their residence quad, predicted graduation term, enrollment term, and whether or not they are a student in the Transitional Year Program. The software needs to be interoperable with both the UNET ID authentication protocol, and more challengingly, the Peoplesoft database used by the university uses to store information about students.

This is not a piece of software that you can simply buy on, but a custom application that will take months to develop. The new system will have to meet the highest standards for security and accuracy, be programmed to ensure that every ballot is counted, and counted anonymously.

While recent glitches with the system have proven annoying, they have never compromised the integrity of elections. We can say with absolute certainty that the results demonstrate the will of the student body.
Prior to the release of the current election system in 2001 the Student Union had relied on paper balloting and it faced difficulties far greater than anything that we have encountered in recent memory. Despite the concerted efforts of student leaders, there were often accusations of inaccuracies, fraud, favoritism, and other practices that are impossible with the current system.

Five years later the shortcomings of the UNET elections system are clear, but we should not forget the benefits that it gives us, helping to make elections fairer and more accessible than any readily available alternative would.

Mr. Pepose was entirely wrong when it stated that the Union and LTS have not met to fine-tune the election process. The fact is that Student Union officials have met numerous times with LTS to work on improving the elections. We have worked together in every recent round to ensure the integrity of the vote and respond to any new problems.

The members of LTS should be thanked for their continuing effort to help with student elections, not maliciously attacked by those who dont care enough to do some basic reporting. LTS understands the importance of ensuring fair and reliable elections, and I have no doubt that they will continue to work with us in coming months to create the software students disserve.

I have great respect for the students who write for this paper, but there is no excuse for this sort of slipshod reporting. I hope that they will learn from these errors, and work to ensure more professional work in the future.