Fairfield’s elections have always been based on a democratic system with a one person, one vote standard. This ensures that each candidate has an equal chance of winning. As a politics major, I see it as especially important that everyone vote as part of their civic duty in all elections. This way, all members of the Fairfield community can feel like they had a deciding voice when it came to electing their leaders. But how fair are these elections when it comes to deciding who represents different groups within the University? In my three years as a student here, I have seen this system play out successfully and poorly, and since this is something that is expected to be executed properly, I feel compelled to share what I have recently experienced.

Since I was a freshman, I have voted in every Fairfield University Student Association election to make sure that my voice was heard and that the best people to represent my class get elected. And so far, I have been proud of who I voted for. I have also been proud to see that this elite association conducts its elections democratically, just like our great nation. Each voter swipes his or her StagCard, takes one ballot, goes into a voting booth and casts their vote for the candidates. Recently, this process has gone electronic with voters using computers to cast their votes on ballots that are in survey format, allowing them to choose one candidate per position. A voter cannot vote more than once after their ballot has been submitted. I strongly feel that FUSA elections exemplify this really well, and it shows. Ever since I started voting, I have seen significant improvements in my overall Fairfield experience, from more events on weekends to improved quality of food in the dining hall. I am pleased that, by expressing my voice and voting, I have helped decide who would represent me in making these changes possible.

As a sophomore, I was a member of the Residence Hall Association in Loyola Hall, serving as the Diversity Representative. When election night arrived, the voting process was done electronically with a computer set up at a table. Residents would come up to the table, vote, hit “submit” and then leave. After I voted, the screen read, “Thank you for voting” with no option to submit another form. This election was closely monitored to make sure that no one voted more than once. I found this process to be fair and abiding to the “one person, one vote” criteria that is the best way for someone to get elected fairly. I had such a good experience in RHA that I decided to run again, this time for president of the Village.

In the email I received regarding RHA, it said, “For the first time this year, the Village will be broken up into Kostka and Claver as well as Meditz and Mahan. This will make RHA even cozier within your own buildings and will allow you to work more closely with your building’s ACs, RAs and Hall Buddy.” However, on election night, the ballot clearly didn’t indicate this, as I thought there would be two separate computers, one for Kostka and Claver and one for Mahan and Meditz. Upon my arrival, I found that there were two computers, with names from all four Village buildings on the ballot and instead of someone closely monitoring the voting process, I watched a girl in front of me enter the same names into the ballot multiple times. She did this by filling in the ballot, hitting “submit” and then clicking “submit another form.” Her three friends were standing around her, coaxing her to submit their names for certain positions.

I was told that the girl voting multiple times was doing so “on behalf of her friends.” How is this voting on behalf of your friends? You’re simply putting their names in the ballot multiple times to give them an advantage in the election, even if they never submitted an application. This process went on for about five minutes before I spoke up and said, “Can you let other people vote instead of rigging the election?” before walking out in disgust.

Upon my return to the voting room, this time with my housemate, who was also running for RHA, we were told that the Executive Board of Inter Residence Hall Association had decided that the split wouldn’t be happening because it was “too difficult.” How is splitting the Village into two separate entities “too difficult” to achieve? I feel strongly that every voice should be heard in RHA meetings and a split in Village representation would achieve this. But how can this happen if those who are extremely passionate about the process aren’t elected?

I spoke up again and said, “I watched and that girl submitted the ballot more than five times.” The IRHA Executive Board members who were there didn’t believe me and it took a lot of persuasion before my claim was checked. As it turns out, the same form had been submitted 16 times, not five as originally thought. Apparently, the multiple votes had been “disqualified” and I then received an apology for what happened before I cast my votes and left. I then decided to write an email to the President of IRHA to make sure that he was aware of the situation and so that I could possibly convince him to redo the election. In the email, I presented exactly what I saw and even gave suggestions for how this problem can be prevented in the future, such as tracking votes using StagCard numbers and closely monitoring how votes are cast.

When the results came out later that night, my fears were confirmed. Not only had my housemate and I not been elected, but the majority of positions were filled by sophomores. I confirmed this by looking up all of the winners on social media. I also recognized some of the winners as those who had coaxed their friend, who also won, to vote multiple times. How is this equal representation of the Village if the majority of positions are filled by underclassmen? And how was this election fair if the same ballot was submitted multiple times?

This situation could have easily been avoided if it followed the same electoral practices that FUSA follows. I seriously question the integrity of all IRHA elections after witnessing the events of Sept. 22. How can we trust the electoral system to be fair if people are taking advantage of the system? I am glad that my concerns were heard, and I can only hope that this experience will enhance the Fairfield election experience down the road.

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