Voices in the Wilderness

A forum for discussion of all things Dartmouth.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Voting Irregularities

The voting in the 2005 Dartmouth trustee election has passed. However, the election's lack of transparency and a number of missteps may drive reform for future referenda.

Such irregularities, as compiled by various readers and sources, include:

1. In the many weeks, even months, prior to the inception of the campaign period, the names, pictures and biographies of the administration/alumni council-backed candidates had been featured constantly on the official Dartmouth College website. Also, for three months, the same website featured an official streaming video'endorsement of these same candidates by the current president of the Alumni Council.

However, once the petition candidates had received enough signatures to place their names on the ballot, all candidates were required to be silent, except for two email messages which were supposed to be sent to all alumni. The petition candidates did not have the advantage of this earlier free publicity. The restrictions on free speech hurt mostly the petition candidates.

Further, during the non-campaigning period and throughout the whole voting process, the full resources of the administration were used to undermine and attack the arguments and platform of the petition candidates. President Wright's travel budget for the last 2 months could be interpreted as a testament to this effort. Alumni for a Strong Dartmouth engaged in blatant electioneering against the petition candidates.

1) The voting period began on March 7 (and was to end at 5pm on April 22). March 7 was the first day that a person could vote electronically. However, paper ballots weren't mailed out for another two to three weeks, when the voting period was nearly half over.

2) On March 10, two candidate emails from the Association of Alumni were sent to alumni. One was from Ric Lewis, backed by the Alumni Council; the other was from Todd Zywicki, a petition candidate. Many alumni received the Ric Lewis email and not Zywicki's. It would likely be incompetence if alumni with access to email received neither message, but how is it that some received one and not the other?

3) Why were the official questions asked of some of the candidates different from those asked of other candidates? As an example, candidate Curtis R. Welling was asked, "How do you recommend that Dartmouth reflect its core human values with respect to modern day campus life?" Meanwhile, other candidates had to answer a somewhat different question: "Dartmouth was founded on the basis of certain human values, including a sense of community, inclusiveness and life enrichment through people from various and diverse backgrounds. How do you recommend that this leading institution reflect these values with respect to modern day campus life?"

4) A number of Dartmouth alumni never received paper ballots, even though they constantly received fundraising material from the College.

5) The so-called "third party" vendor handling most of the election related tasks, including validating and tabulating the ballots, is employed by Dartmouth's Alumni Relations Office to perform other tasks including publishing the Dartmouth Alumni Directory and therefore has a conflict of interest.

6) The Ballot Committee met and voted NOT to answer some basicquestions about the third party vendor being used to do the mailings and validate and tabulate the votes. The Alumni Relations Office has been able to monitor the number of alumni voting in this election on a daily basis. And, no independent observers can be present for the counting of the votes.

On Friday, May 6, Dartmouth trustee T. J. Rodgers sent a letter to Ballot Committee chair John Walters saying he has now lost confidence in the election process. Furthermore, he requested that he be allowed to monitor the election results by flying to Dallas to personally interview the firm managing the election.

Whatever the outcome, I doubt that alumni will tolerate such an irregular election again. But free speech advocates have already scored a victory: Dartmouth is reversing its policies on speech codes.