Archive for Wednesday, April 10, 2002

KU polls prepped for smooth election process

April 10, 2002

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Kansas University students go to the polls today and Thursday to elect new student leaders, and election organizers said they are hoping to avoid problems seen this spring at other universities.

Problems at Kansas State University and Baker University forced officials to scrap election returns and send students to the polls a second time.

"It was kind of a disaster as far as elections go," said John Kraemer, Baker's student body vice president.

David Mitchell, a graduate student in public administration and KU's elections commissioner, said he was confident KU's election process would be solid. Students present their KU Card at the polling site, and it is swiped through a reader to prevent them from voting more than once.

Students then fill in circles on a ballot with a No. 2 pencil, like they do for standardized tests. The ballots are placed in a locked box and are tallied by computer at the KU Testing Service office.

"Our process is quite complex compared to other universities," Mitchell said.

Plans are under way to change KU's election process next year. Kyle Browning, student body vice president, said a student task force was working to enact online voting, which he hoped would lead to increased voter turnout. About 18 percent of students voted in last year's election.

"Every school I've researched has doubled or tripled turnout" with online voting, he said. "And the Web site could have information about candidates. It can be a big resource for voters, if they don't go on campus much or read the newspaper."

But Bill Harlan, a student who helped run Kansas State's election, said online voting may not be worth the hassle. Glitches in Kansas State's system denied some students the ability to vote last month, which eventually led to a second election that handed the student body presidency to another candidate.

Now, some student senators are reconsidering their move to online voting.

"If the process works flawlessly, it's worth it because of the convenience," he said.

The problem this semester at Baker University in Baldwin came when 23 more ballots were counted than people registered at the polls. Kraemer said either people stuffed the ballot boxes or simply took ballots without knowing they needed to register.

Three positions  treasurer, secretary and director of public relations  were close enough for a second election, which began Tuesday and continues today at Baker. This time around, poll workers are keeping a closer eye on the ballots and are requiring Baker students to present a photo ID before voting.

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