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New policy ignores abstentions in final vote count; Judicial Council pleased with voter turnout, condemns ‘abstain’ posters

Joseph McMahon | Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Judicial Council officials said they were pleased with voter turnout in the student body elections Monday – but they took issue with posters displayed around campus encouraging voters to abstain from the election.

This is the first election in which abstentions were eliminated from the vote count so that candidates need receive only 50 percent of votes cast for a specific candidate to win the election.

Judicial Council president Ashley Weiss said the change in tallying abstentions ensures the abstaining votes could not block a ticket from receiving the necessary 50 percent, as happened in the 2007 student body elections. That election was decided by a Senate vote, resulting in the election of student body president Liz Brown and student body vice president Maris Braun.

“We introduced this as a safety net to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Weiss said. Weiss and vice president of elections Danny Smith expressed disappointment with posters placed in dorms and South Dining Hall encouraging students to vote “abstain.” One such poster read: “Domers wants you to vote abstain. God save the Irish.”

Though the Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction over the matter unless the person responsible is a member of student government, both Weiss and Smith condemned the posters.

“I think it’s a little disheartening and almost disappointing that individuals that have really invested themselves in the student body and are striving to achieve more have individuals that are proclaiming against that,” Weiss said. “In the fashion that they’ve been putting up the posters, it’s disrespectful to the candidates and to student government at large.”

Since none of the posters were approved by the Student Activities Office, Smith said posting around campus is a punishable offense.

Weiss and Smith said they were pleased with voter turnout in the student body presidential primary election, but they expressed dismay at the presence of posters around campus encouraging voters to abstain from the vote.

Weiss and Smith said they hope more students vote in the run-off election Thursday.

The run-off will include the tickets of junior class president Bob Reish and sophomore class president Grant Schmidt and student body vice president Maris Braun and Sorin senator George Chamberlain.

Student turnout was higher than last year with 3,861 total votes cast.

“Three hundred more people came out this year,” Weiss said. “We would have been happy if one or two more people came out.”

Though the 3,861 total votes accounts for less than half the Notre Dame student body, Smith said the turnout results are positive.

“It’s better than last year, and it’s a higher percentage than most other [student government] programs at other schools,” he said.

The link to the voting on the Notre Dame home page increased participation, Smith said.

Weiss said no violations were reported during the campaigns.