Polling stations stay silent while online voting swells

by Raiza Beltran

Attracting only 17 voters at its three polling stations Tuesday for the Minnesota Student Association elections, the All Campus Elections Commission intends to steer students online.
While more than 1,900 students voted through the Internet as of 6:53 p.m. Tuesday, the three polling stations — located at the nearest student registration offices in the St. Paul, East Bank and West Bank campuses — were left deserted most of the day.
Last year, polling stations were set up in nine locations, including the Recreation Center, Moos Tower and outside Eddy Hall.
“What? I didn’t know they had polling booths,” said Carrie Eggers, a General College freshman who voted online.
Given the high voter turnout electronically, commission adviser Yee Leng Hang said the commission wants to encourage students to use the Internet for following election years.
“It’s more accessible. I don’t think many people are interested enough to physically vote. But it’s easy enough to vote on the Web. There’s no reason not to,” said Mike Barnhardt, an Institute of Technology sophomore.
The five-member student group attributed the loss of student voters at the stations to the problems it had setting them up all week.
Hang also said the commission was not given enough time to adequately prepare for the polling stations because MSA did not approve the election rules until two days before the beginning of the election week on March 13.
And the stations opened Tuesday at noon instead of 9 a.m. — as it had been advertised — because the members did not receive their computer laptops on time, said elections Commissioner Bob Stohlosser, a mechanical engineering junior.
“We missed a lot of voters,” he said.
The laptops allow the commissioners to check a voter’s student identification and college and ensure each student only votes once.
Adding to the frustration of the group was the limited number of volunteers this year. While last year there were six more stations, Hang said there were not enough student commissioners and volunteers to manage more than three polling booths.
“The greek community was going to help us, but they backed out this morning,” Stohlosser said. The commission operated with only three volunteers Tuesday.

Raiza Beltran covers student government and student life and welcomes comments at [email protected]