FAU’s SG made more mistakes in this fall’s election than previous years

Dylan Bouscher

Chances are you’re part of the 97 percent who didn’t vote in this fall’s Student Government elections.

And even though FAU’s enrollment is up to an all-time high of 30,542, voter turnout in this year’s election dropped from last year’s 4.38 percent to 3.32 this year.

This year, the elections started at midnight, Sept. 11, and ended the same time Sept. 13. The 3.32 percent who did vote in the election went online and voted on myfau.fau.edu. Others went to one of four old-fashioned voting stations on campus, which had laptops for students to cast their ballot.

But the ballot for this year’s SG elections had more mistakes on it than usual, mistakes made by the SG leaders and administrators who managed (or mismanaged) the elections.

Mike Brown, SG’s election board chair, is annually paid $8,100 of student money — through the Activities and Services fee all FAU students pay in their tuition — to catch these mistakes, so even the 97 percent who didn’t vote are paying for his blunders.

“You come into a new position, you make these mistakes, but you don’t make them again,” Brown said. “In the spring election, I will be reviewing thoroughly.”

He was hired in July by SG President Robert Huffman, who interviewed him for the position after Brown spent two years moving up the ladder in SG. Brown started out in the Boca House of Representatives before winning a seat in the university-wide senate. Then he volunteered to be a part of former SG President Ayden Maher’s staff before Maher hired him to be his executive assistant.

“I found it to be very rewarding, it’s good management experience,” Brown said.

And in the time Brown’s been at FAU, he’s voted in seven SG elections himself. When the UP interviewed Brown and pointed out miscalculations in the official results, Brown took them back to double check.

“Let me keep this and bring this up with [Associate Dean of Students Terry Mena] and make sure these are the exact certified results,” Brown said.

But miscalculating who won more votes over other candidates is only where the errors began.

When SG amended its constitution over the summer, they held meetings and voted to approve their proposed amendments, such as raising the minimum GPA requirement for SG leaders. Then the amendments were sent to Brown so the student body could vote for them in the fall elections, yet not every amendment made it on the ballot.

“There was one left off, that’s correct,” Ryan Frierson, SG’s assistant director, said. “What happened was one amendment was duplicated.”

“I didn’t see any mistakes or missed amendments,” Brown said.

Frierson created the ballot for the election, according to Brown and other leaders in SG. The amendment left off changed Article VII of the constitution, the section explaining how constitutional amendments are approved, according to Coicou.

“I inputed some of the information to the eBallot, the rest was done by [the Office of Information Technology],” Frierson said.

Meanwhile eBallot — the online voting site SG used to manage the election — crashed both days of the election.

“It happened in the morning and around the same time the next day,” Brown said.

But Frierson knew eBallot could crash before the elections started.

“The Friday before the election, eBallot stopped working,” Frierson said. “It was an internal error late on a Friday, almost 6 p.m. I came back Monday and wasn’t able to do anything.”

More than 600 organizations worldwide use eBallot, according to its website.

“eBallot is the #1 online platform to build and execute secure, high integrity votes, ballots, elections, surveys and contest voting,” the eBallot website reads.

Students weren’t able to vote during the hour eBallot was offline in a 48 hour election.

Patricio Coicou chaired the group of students amending SG’s constitution.

“I was confused by [the ballot],” Coicou said. “So if I was confused by it, imagine somebody else.”

Coicou was the first to point out the ballot didn’t include every amendment.

“When I didn’t see it on there I was very upset,” Coicou said. “I think some things could have been done better.”

After Coicou noticed the missing amendment, he tried to file a petition with the Student Court, but SG Chief Justice Nicholas Scalice rejected it for what he called a “lack of sufficient evidence.”

The lack of evidence was Coicou not having the final amendments to compare to the ballot. Later Frierson admitted to the UP, however, an amendment was missing.

Coicou also pointed out possible reasons for voter turnout being lower this year than past elections.

“This election wasn’t advertised, promoted, whatever you want to call it, as well as previous years,” Coicou said.

Other leaders in SG agree with Coicou. Boca House Speaker Jaclyn Broudy is one of them.

“I don’t want to bash anybody for not doing something,” Broudy said. “But I felt like it could have been marketed better, advertised better.”

Samuel Pluviose, a junior chemistry major, knew about the elections, but not about the candidates. “I didn’t think they did their job well this year.”

Robert Huffman, however, disagrees.

“I think [Mike Brown]’s done a good job compared to years past. It’s gotten better,” Huffman said. “I think voter turnout really depends on who’s running.”

Now Brown expects the spring elections for SG president and vice president to go better than this fall’s elections.

“In the upcoming election, we will definitely correct any mistakes we made on our part,” Brown said. “Do more to raise awareness and hopefully increase voter turnout.”

Brown said he will ask more people to review the results in the spring election than he did this fall.

“I will have [Ryan Frierson] reviewing the ballot so we know it’s correct,” Brown said.

Despite the mistakes made by Brown and Frierson, Patricio Coicou doesn’t take it personally.

“Me and Mike Brown are friends, but business is business,” Coicou said. “When it comes down to it, some of us fucked up, from administrators to the elections board chair, we’re all to blame.”

Kenson Delva contributed to the reporting of this article.

You don’t say — “Election? What election?”

Here’s what FAU students had to say about the SG elections this year:

Name: Frank Rocks

Year: Sophomore

Major: Communications

“Here at FAU, it’s really hard to know the candidates. I didn’t know there was fall elections, we need a cheat sheet for this stuff.”

 

 

 

Name: Alex O’Leary
Year: Sophomore
Major: Criminal justice

“I had no idea we had fall elections. That’s baloney, I want my money going to something more useful.”

 

 

 

 

Name: Chris Soviero
Year: Sophomore
Major: Engineering

“If I knew about the voting that would be more helpful. I feel like if I’m paying for it I should know about it.”

 

 

 

Voter Turnout — “Over the Years”

The last six years of SG elections haven’t had more than 10 percent of students on the Boca campus vote in them:

2007 – 6.38% (Votes cast = 1,355) (Total voters = 21,239)
2008 – 4.82% (Votes cast = 1,050) (Total voters = 21,792)
2009 – 2.41% (Votes cast = 561) (Total voters = 23,296)
2010 – 5.45% (Votes cast = 1,319) (Total voters = 24,208)
2011 – 4.38% (Votes cast = 1,122) (Total voters = 25,618)
2012 – 3.32% (Votes cast = 797) (Total voters = 24,029)

Source: SG Elections Board, FAU Media Relations

Less Money Mo’ Problems

In this fall’s SG election, students voted for members of the campus Houses and the university-wide Senate. When FAU closed the Treasure Coast campus after absorbing a $24.7 million budget cut, the numbers of campus Houses shrunk. Then the university’s record enrollment of 30,542 students increased the membership of the Houses.

Now the campus houses are comprised of:

48 representatives – Boca Raton Campus
11 representatives – Broward Campuses (Davie and Fort Lauderdale)
7 representatives – Jupiter Campus

Now the senate is comprised of:

2 senators – Boca Raton Campus
2 senators – Broward Campuses (Davie and Fort Lauderdale)
2 senators – Jupiter Campus