Open Democracy in ASUCD

Another Green Party campaign

The Issue

The Green Party believes all elections should be open and transparent, including ASUCD elections. We also believe that people in government should act with integrity, with frankness, and in good faith.

Right now ASUCD is breaking its own Constitution and its own Election Codes by refusing to release election data from the 2003-2004 ASUCD winter election. Why are they refusing?

The Importance

The right to access election data is important. An open democracy increases public trust. It gives the public an entryway in case anything were to ever seem suspicious.

We also want to evaluate Choice Voting. The Green Party believes that a full analysis of the election will help everyone better understand the benefits of Choice Voting and how it works. We've already begun such an analysis without the data, but it is necessarily limited in its scope:

The Public's Right to Access

The ASUCD Constitution guarantees the right of the public to have a copy of the election data.

Article II, Section 5 and Article III, Section 3 (2) of the ASUCD Constitution both read:

"To permit an independent count of the ballots, the rankings cast by ballot shall be made available to the public upon request."

The voters passed this by 67% in February 2003. Why is ASUCD thwarting the will of the voters?

The ASUCD Elections Codes repeat this even more explicitly. Chapter One, Section 110 (7) of the ASUCD Government Codes reads:

"Pursuant to the ASUCD Constitution, the Elections Committee shall provide to any ASUCD member, upon request, an electronic copy of the rankings cast by ballot in that election."

Why are they disobeying their own codes---the ones that provide for public oversight?

Who is ignoring the ASUCD Constitution & Codes?

Several ASUCD officials are complicit in violating the ASUCD Constitution and voters' will on this, including

Each of them could get the election data released if they really wanted to, and none of them have even spoken out in support of the Constitution. Why aren't they upholding the Constitution?

What is their explanation?

The officials say there is a "security risk," but none of them ever say what the risk is. Doesn't the public have a right to a real explanation that has actual meaning?

The California Aggie reported the following in an online article posted Monday, March 15---

"However, Swett said that the person who created the elections program recommended that ballot rankings not be released in electronic format for security reasons.

'I was told that releasing ballot rankings could compromise elections in the future,' she said."

Vicki Swett is referring to Alex Park here. Did Vicki think to ask Alex what the risk actually is? What is the risk?

But if you ask Alex, he says it was Mary Ball's decision since she is the Elections Chair. But Mary Ball doesn't know much about computer security, and she says she made the decision with the advice of Alex Park and Vicki Swett and Mark Champagne. It's hard to pin down the responsibility, isn't it?

Here is an explanation in flow-chart form.

But still, what are these "security reasons"? And how can the ballot rankings for this election affect the results of the next election?

The answer is simple. They can't!

ASUCD actually offered to print the ballot rankings as an 800+ page bound document, to be stored exclusively in the SGAO office. But this isn't in the spirit or letter of the law. It doesn't let the public perform an independent count. It's not in an electronic form. And it's wasteful and inconvenient. Why are they purposely making things inconvenient?

More on this can be found in this satirical but true press release about the document.

If the information is safe enough for paper, then why isn't it safe digitally? After all, the paper data could be typed into a digital format given enough time. So what's really going on here?

Why there is no security risk

Releasing the rankings would increase the election integrity because it would let the public verify and evaluate the results.

In fact, the San Francisco Elections Department is planning to release the ballot rankings for their own IRV elections in an electronic form---just as ASUCD is refusing! Read pages 5-6 of this report prepared by the Center for Voting and Democracy:

It reads in part,
"In short, by releasing sets of ballot records (voters' rankings) as soon as possible after the close of polls, the city will provide the public with a significant assurance that voters are being counted accurately."

Next Steps

Recall the quote by Frederick Douglass:

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." (1957)

Green Party members have filed a formal court complaint against Vicki Swett and Alex Park. They are also planning to file a Student Judicial Affairs complaint against Mary Ball. We have no other choice when ASUCD officials refuse to uphold their own Constitution.

ASUCD should instead act with integrity. They should provide the ballot rankings in a usable digital format. We expect that the ASUCD student court, the Campus Judicial Board, and the campus public will agree.