Elections commission loses votes

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March 30, 2007

1:57 AM

p. “Maybe we should focus on the part where I fucked up the election,” Elections Commissioner senior James Evans said last night in an emergency meeting of the commission, when conversation drifted off-topic.

p. Yesterday’s Student Assembly elections got off to a rocky start — as a failure to account for daylight savings time caused the polls to open 16 minutes late — and ended in disaster when Evans single-handedly lost the results through the push of a button. Raw computer data containing a log of the votes has been sent to former Student Information Network Director Will Cline, ’06, who is working to create a program to read the information and produce results.

p. “SIN is cleaning up my mess by writing a program that will get every vote counted,” Evans said in an e-mail last night to candidates. “SIN needs to recover these votes in a process that is the electronic equivalent of a hand-count.”

p. Evans added that official results should be available today.

p. As modern technology failed, two elections were decided by paper ballots because a lack of official candidates for certain positions resulted in no place on the electronic ballot for write-in candidates at those positions.

p. Diane Brewster became the Class of ’09 secretary, and Laura Rogers became the Class of ’08 Treasurer.

p. In Evans’ e-mail, he described the day’s events.

p. At 8 a.m. students began complaining that they couldn’t vote, leading to a manual opening of the polls at 8:16 a.m. Between then and 9 a.m., Evans realized that SIN’s time stamp was an hour behind schedule, not set for daylight savings time. He determined that he would need to manually close the polls at 8 p.m., as they otherwise wouldn’t close until 9 p.m. He logged into the system to change the election end-time, and by doing so accidentally generated results tables for an entirely new, nonexistent election.

p. The actual results were lost, accessible only by a computer expert.

p. “It is just a matter of time to translate SIN’s database log into an elections table,” Evans said in the e-mail. “If we had not been able to close the polls on time there would be serious implications for the consistency of this election. As it stands, this elections will be the same as any other, except it will take longer for the results to come out.”

p. Presidential candidate junior Brad Potter could not be reached for comment. His opponent, sophomore Zach Pilchen, said he felt confident that he would eventually be named the winner, but that he was somewhat concerned about the mishap.

p. “I’m disappointed that all the candidates did not get the same turnaround this time as candidates as these elections usually give,” he said. “I’m sure there are no malicious intentions behind this, but I think it would be a good idea to have an objective observer in the room as they — quote, unquote — ‘regenerate the data.’”

p. An exit poll conducted by conservative campus newspaper The Virginia Informer projected Pilchen the winner with 60 percent of the vote.

p. Potter, who was contacted by The Flat Hat earlier in the day, said he didn’t feel this was cause to celebrate for the Pilchen campaign, noting that many groups of students were not represented in the poll, such as graduate students.

p. “There’s still an election going on,” he said.

p. Assoc. News Editors Morgan Figa and Angela Cota contributed to this report.

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