Thursday, May 3, 2001


election results
under dispute

Critics claim a vote held
during strike was unfair
to students

By Treena Shapiro

The oft-controversial undergraduate student government at the University of Hawaii-Manoa has sparked a new round of criticism, this time by ratifying an election held during the faculty strike last month, in which only about 3 percent of eligible students voted.

The Associated Students of the University of Hawaii controls a stock portfolio worth almost $8 million and represents roughly 15,000 full-time students, who pay a $5 fee each semester to support the organization.

Although the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii elections typically see a low voter turnout, critics argue that the election of next year's leaders was compromised by allowing voting exclusively over the Internet, with no ballot boxes on campus.

The election rules ratified before the strike provided for both Internet and in-person balloting.

Some 446 students voted in this election, compared with more than 800 last year. President-elect Travis Mimura won his seat by a margin of 52 votes.

Mimura, currently the ASUH treasurer, defended the ratification yesterday, explaining that the student court -- essentially the supreme court for the student government -- had ruled that the election was valid and the senators were bound by their constitution to adhere to the court's decision and vote accordingly.

The constitution also mandates that the elections be held by April 15, which is why the five-day election coincided with the 13-day strike that began on April 5, he said.

Senators who had been re-elected had been encouraged to abstain from the ratification vote Tuesday night, which was preceded by the testimony of a room full of students calling for a revote. However, eight of the 11 votes in favor of ratification came from re-elected student leaders, including Mimura.

Outgoing ASUH President Chris Garnier, who opposed ratifying the results and had been ready to hold new elections today and tomorrow, said, "I question the integrity of Travis Mimura" and anyone else with self-interest in the election that voted for ratification.

"If the people who were elected were so certain they had been elected, then there wouldn't be a problem with having another election," he said.

Garnier, who was acting chief elections officer because he was not running for office, objected to the election process, noting that the Internet voting disenfranchised those who had no off-campus Internet access.

Even if there had been ballot boxes available, "it was extremely difficult for students to come on campus," he said. "The truth is, a lot of students had no reason to come to school in the first place, considering their teachers were on strike."

But, Mimura said, "They did actually have the option to vote anywhere over the Internet from at home, at work, even at public libraries."

Although he believes the election was valid, Mimura said he is concerned that his constituency will perceive it otherwise.

"I will have to work very hard in the upcoming year to make them comfortable with the process," he said.

Ka Leo O Hawaii
University of Hawaii

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