Freshman Senate candidates defend actions

In the aftermath of the midnight maneuverings that culminated in the nullification of Wednesday’s freshman Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate results, candidates have maintained that they did not act maliciously.

“My intention was for people to have their votes counted fairly,” freshman Senator Elliott McCarthy, a candidate for reelection, told the Daily yesterday. “My intent was not to skew the election.”

McCarthy is among the freshman candidates charged with encouraging their peers to cast multiple ballots during Wednesday’s contest. Their alleged actions caused the Elections Commission (ECOM) to throw out the results of the contest.

“Due to an error in the Ecom website, we are free to vote a second time, with all the previous ballots still counting. Please vote again!” McCarthy said in a message to the Facebook group “Elliott McCarthy for TCU Senate.”

McCarthy said he decided to send the message since his fellow candidates were also telling their supporters to exploit the potential glitch.

“I think that it was a choice that I made because if I had not, then there would have been an unfair advantage given to other candidates,” he said.

McCarthy later retracted his request in messages to his own group and to the group “TCU Senate Elections.”

“After some investigation, there was a change over in the system,” both messages read. “If you voted already and you go to vote twice, your vote will still only count once. If you haven’t voted yet, then there is nothing to be concerned with.”

McCarthy said he sent out the retraction after deciding that it would be unfair to capitalize on a technological malfunction — even if that glitch could not possibly yield any benefits to the candidates if all students’ votes were only counted once, no matter how many ballots they filed.

“I realized that ultimately the fault was not with the candidates, but with the system failure, and that we are not in a place to try to take advantage of that,” he said.

Manuel Guzman, another incumbent senator seeking reelection, also sent out a message about the voting problem.

“Voting irregularity! Please RE-VOTE! There was a voting error in the Ecom website, you are all free to vote a second time. Please re-vote!” he said in a message to members of the Facebook group “REELECT Manuel Guzman For TCU Senate.”

Guzman said he did not expect votes to actually count twice, but was instead concerned that the mix-up had prevented students’ initial ballots from counting. He blamed ECOM for fostering the voting hype by not releasing an official statement Wednesday afternoon.

“We got secondhand information,” he said. “There should have been a press release from ECOM … The candidates were left in the dark.”

Still, he said he regrets not sending another message to his Facebook group to retract his original comments. “That’s something that I should have done,” he said.

Even so, Guzman objected to the criticisms that candidates are facing, arguing that it was natural for them to be concerned about making sure that their supporters were allowed to have their voices heard.

“I find it unfair that we’re put in a position where we’re criminals, when in fact everything was caused by ECOM,” he said.

While she supports ECOM’s decisions, freshman senator and candidate Danielle Cotter also said that criticisms leveled against candidates have been misguided.

“I think at the end of the day, there was no corruption; there were no bad intentions. I think they’re just two people who care a lot about the school [and] who want to get reelected,” she said, referring to Guzman and McCarthy.

Still, freshman candidate Shantal Richards was not convinced. Rather than repeating the election, “I think that what they should’ve just done is thrown out the people who cheated,” she said.

“I know that they all want to be on Senate, but I don’t think that they should have taken it that far,” she added.

Freshman candidate Tomas Garcia also mentioned revoting in a Facebook message. According to Garcia, he only brought it up because his name was incorrectly displayed as “Tomas Fraser” on the ballot for a short period of time, and he wanted to ensure that people who had voted during the timeframe of the mistake had their ballots counted.

Apart from McCarthy, Guzman and Garcia, it remains unclear if any other candidates touched on the theme of re-voting when communicating with supporters.

When announcing ECOM’s decision to throw out the results, Adam Weldai, the group’s chair, told the Daily that so many candidates allegedly referred to the glitch that were they to be excluded from the new election, there would not be enough left in the group of 13 to fill the seven vacant seats.

Last night, Weldai said that candidates did not limit their voter appeals to Facebook messages. Instead, he said that the messages are only the most readily available evidence because they leave a lasting footprint in recipients’ mailboxes.

The technological problem that spurred the messy election results started at 1:10 a.m. on Wednesday when ECOM officials fixed candidate statements online. Previously, two statements had been attached to the wrong names.

When ECOM changed the information, the server somehow allowed everybody who had cast a vote between midnight and the time of the edits to access another ballot later in the day.

ECOM Chair Adam Weldai said that there was a surge of voting in the first few hours of the contest, so the glitch allowed a sizeable portion of the voting block to log in a second time. Still, Weldai believes that only their first votes counted, even if they filed more than one.

Weldai said that ECOM was not aware of the problem until Wednesday afternoon when candidates began spreading information about the loophole via Facebook and word of mouth.

“We were not informed of the ability of them to log in again until we heard about it from those candidates who were making statements,” he said.

ECOM responded to individual queries from concerned candidates, but did not send out a group message or press release. Weldai said he did not inform the candidates in a single message since he was mostly hearing about the problem on a case-by-case basis.

“In hindsight, I would probably have sent out a message if I thought this was actually going to be a big issue,” he said.

ECOM’s failure to communicate en masse has caused frustration among some candidates. “The information was extraordinarily confusing,” McCarthy said. “We weren’t sure whether or not the original votes would count or whether or not the second votes would count or any combination of the two.”

Freshman candidate Luke Fraser also would have liked to have seen more communication. “It would have preempted or prevented some of the actions of other candidates, which I think would have been helpful,” he said.

But despite concerns over the flow of information, nearly all candidates interviewed supported ECOM’s decision to void the results, noting that had the outcome been certified, there would have been a number of appeals.

Even if ECOM were able to definitively prove that each student was only able to vote once, appeals still would have emerged over the switched candidate statements, those involved have said.

“I think it was probably the right decision because had they not, there would have been complaints from candidates,” freshman candidate Abe Stein said.