SGA election experiences first tie in BC history

Elizabeth Meeks
May 7, 2008
Filed under News

For the first time in Bakersfield College history, the run for Student Government Association president ended in a tie and remains undecided due to controversy involving voter tampering.
Voting originally occurred during the week of April 21-25. Vice presidency down to SGA representative was decided, except for the presidency between candidates James Hancock and Lyne Mugema who each received 33.48 percent of the votes. The remaining percentage was taken by candidate Matthew Cuellar and independent votes that students may cast for anyone of their choosing.
Hancock and Mugema each received 295 votes.
Hancock and Mugema continued campaigning for another week until a second vote would be held.
Both candidates really want to hold the president position.
Current SGA president John Lopez said, “The emotions are really coming out in this election between candidates. There is frustration between the candidates, and you can see it.”
In order to cast a vote, students must enter the first letter of their first name, full last name and their personal student ID number as the password on any computer that has Internet access.
The foyer was chosen as ballot casting headquarters due to the fact it could be monitored by SGA committee members ensuring candidates would not campaign within 100 feet of polls.
During run-off voting, a woman who was not identified attempted to cast her ballet only to find that a vote had already been cast under her identification number. That is when the complaint was made to SGA about voter tampering.
Several other students throughout the day also claimed a vote had been cast under their name by someone else.
According to reports by SGA, someone was able to access student identification numbers and cast votes under different student names, which created controversy over the outcome of the elections. How many faulty votes were cast is unknown.
Matthew Jenkins, SGA general counsel and elections chair, said, ” I have no idea who the student was or how he or she got the ID numbers.”
Until this incident, there is no prior documentation of voter tampering involving SGA elections. Although accusations have been made in the past, there was never enough evidence to support the claim.
“It is the safest way to hold voting. We can’t use social security numbers, so student ID numbers are the only way to identify when a student voted,” said Jenkins.
It is still undetermined if elections will be held the same way next year via computer ballets.
Lopez acknowledges there are problems with the system regarding the voting process. “It has improved since last year. An idea for next year might include only being able to vote on designated computer provided by SGA verses being able to vote on any computer,” said Lopez. “We are always trying to improve the process.”
After the incident involving voter tampering a decision was made to use paper ballots. A student must provide identification and their student ID number to the proctor in order to vote.
“Paper ballots are more work and it will take longer to count and process; however, it will be more secure,” Lopez said. “Unfortunately it is a major inconvenience to night students because voting ends at 5 p.m.”
Voting ended May 6 and ballets will be counted to announce the presidency May 7.
Each candidate is allowed to have a representative present while the counting of votes is in process, however, the candidate themselves are excluded from the process.
“It is up to SGA elections chair and the committee they put together that will decide how elections are run next year,” said Jenkins.
Despite the problems with the elections, more students turned out to vote than previous years, which was a goal of SGA. Three-hundred more votes were cast this year as compared last year.
Lopez’s last day in office is May 31, which will also mark the swearing in of new officers
and the gavel handed over to the new SGA president. Karl Estill, newly elected vice president, is the only person to previously hold a senior office position in SGA.
Lopez hopes the new president will continue to improve SGA and its presence on campus.

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