On Monday, May 11, the ASSOU Judicial Branch elected to invalidate the recent student government elections following the filing of a grievance.
In an email sent out May 18 ASSOU’s Director of External Relations Lianna Inthavong provided details about the invalidation. Inthavong also attached Chief Justice Dylann Loverro’s email to members of ASSOU following the decision to invalidate the election. In her message, Loverro stated, “We hold no organization, candidate, or member of the elections committee responsible for the issues with the election, but feel that changes must be made to the process in order to ensure an accessible, transparent, and equitable election.”
There are multiple reasons for the invalidation of the election. One reason is that the Military, Higher Education Center (HEC), and Non-Traditional Senate seat was absent from the ballot. Shawn Sorensen who currently occupies the position will be graduating this term, leaving the position vacant going into the fall.
Sorensen noted that “If we look at the Enrollment Facts at a Glance from a Fall 2019 Report, we can see students 26 years and older made up over 30% of total enrollment. Then we can look at Oregon resident students taking part-time credit hours as almost 35% of total enrollment. That information only covers two characteristics of a Non-traditional student.” Apart from non-traditional students, the seat also represents any member of the ASSOU “who is currently a part of or has ever been a part of the Armed Services; or who have attended a class at the Higher Education Center for at least one term during the academic year.” Leaving the seat unfilled would leave a large portion of students unrepresented at SOU.
The senate position is also assigned to the Student Fee Allocation Committee and the Stevenson Union Steering Committee. Sorenson mentioned that “Having someone representing these students on the SFAC is extremely important as many of this position’s constituents have children or otherwise are working full-time and may not have the luxury of having their voice heard on campus.”
The Judicial Branch also chose to invalidate the election due to student’s difficulty using the online voting platform. Originally, students were given the option to vote for candidates via a drag and drop ranking system. ASSOU’s Chief Justice Dylann Loverro explained “Many justices, [Loverro] included, had trouble with the voting interface and were aware of friends and peers who had similar issues.” The system was ultimately deemed “difficult to use, unclear, or otherwise inaccessible.”
Regarding future elections, ASSOU has opted to continue using Qualtrics. However, Loverro’s May 11 email explained that the new organization of the system will prompt “students to select one candidate per seat, as well as provide the option of not voting for a particular seat, rather than a ranked voting system.” Additionally, if a candidate “drops out of the election, the candidate with the second highest amount of votes will be deemed the winner of that seat.”
Concerns were also raised in regards to an email sent out by the Honors College endorsing a particular candidate and providing instruction on how students could vote for said candidate. Within the hour, the Honors College sent out a second email providing information on both candidates in an attempt to redress potential impacts from the first email. Regardless, concerns that the first email could have influenced students to vote for a certain way remained. Loverro affirmed that they “do not hold any organization or candidate responsible for the issue with the two Honors College emails.”
Further reasons for the invalidation of the elections are as follows:
- The Elections Committee did not meet by week 5 of winter term, as they are mandated per our bylaws.
- Information was difficult to find on the elections page, making it hard for students to access information about the election that was not campaign material.
While holding a second election is no simple task, Loverro commented that “It is imperative that students feel they can trust the institutions we have in place. When people lose faith in their institutions they feel that their voices don’t matter, which is not true.”
In regards to the upcoming elections, in her email to students, Ithavong notes that “there will be two, separate, new elections… one election for the Military, HEC, Non-Traditional Senate seat, and another election for the rest of the positions that appeared on the original ballot.”
Voting for positions listed on the previous ballot opened Monday, May 25th, and closed Friday, May 29th. Furthermore, all previous candidates will be allowed to run in the second election without first seeking approval from the elections committee. Voting for the Military, HEC, and Non-Traditional Senate seat opened today, June 1, and close this Friday, June 5. SOU students can find an individualized voting link in their email by searching “Additional Senator Seat- ASSOU Elections”.