OPINION: Don’t wait until next spring to clean up election mess

By the BP Editorial Board

This year’s Just Community elections were a mess. The rules were vague, leaving voters and candidates with both questions and misconceptions about rules as election day approached. When it came time to vote, choosing who to vote for seemed the least of our problems.

Decisions made by Agenda and Fairness, which took charge of the election together, were made at the very last minute and could not possibly have been fully thought through in such a short period of time. 

 At least five questions were handled in this way.

1.  The new Ma’aseh political party asked to be listed on the ballot as a slate, with voters having to vote for everyone or no one on their list. At first, the Agenda Committee formulated a compromise by agreeing to indicate on the ballot who was part of the party. But just days before the election, they decided to not allow any form of a coalition at all. Voters arrived at the voting table to discover no indication on their ballots as to who was who.

2. Agenda’s decisions regarding the Ma’aseh party seemed arbitrary and rushed, based on intuition and a non-binding vote rather than the Just Community constitution or any precedent.  It was then changed by the Fairness Committee just two days before the election, when there was not sufficient time for candidates to adjust their campaigns.

3. The Just Community voted three years ago to let voters vote for whoever they want, even if candidates pair up for the campaign.  But this was not announced this year, so voters were surprised that candidates who ran their entire campaigns with a “co-“ candidate could be elected (or defeated) on their own. 

The result was that two separate pairs ran for SAC Chair and one member of each pair was elected, which came as a surprise to many.

4. Hoping to increase an already high turnout to 100 percent, Agenda and Fairness leaders telephoned students who did not vote and took their ballots over the phone. This was another spontaneous decision made without any prior consideration or community consent. 

5. After the ballots were counted, a decision to release some of the vote totals to the community was decided in a matter of minutes by a group of Agenda and Fairness leaders who happened to be in the room at the end of the count. This was a change from previous policy and was not expected by voters or candidates.

Some losing candidates were embarrassed at having their poor showings unexpectedly publicized and said they might not have run had they known. 

Unpredictable elections have been an ongoing problem for the Just Community, but that’s no reason to let the problem continue. With more candidates running than ever before, and interest in school issues higher than in past years, the  community needs to devote some serious attention to the matter and decide on concrete rules. 

We look forward to weighing in on these details as they come before the community.  But in the meantime, we strongly urge that next year, all of these issues will have been resolved long before campaign week.