Senate votes tampered with

by Kate Paulman

At least two votes were tampered with during Student GovernmentAssociation’s senior senator election last Wednesday.

“[This is] probably the most serious issue that’s come up insenate this year and one of the most serious I’ve seen in threeyears,” said Eric Elben, student body president.

Seniors Nicole Molt and Joshua Brown were running for the opensenate seat.

Elben monitored the election table at BSC from 2-3 p.m., andSenior Class President Michael Schrodt was scheduled for 3-4p.m.

At about 2:45 p.m., Elben and SGA Advisor Rich Ramos counted theballots.

“Since no one had voted for a while, we counted the votes,”Elben said. “We didn’t shut down the booth, we just organized [thevotes] – counted them to see where we were at. Candidate ‘X’, we’llsay, had 18 votes and Candidate ‘Y’ had 12 votes at that time.”

Two members of SGA must be present for a vote count to be valid,according to Elben, though it is not a rule in the ElectionCode.

When Elben came back to recount the votes around 4 p.m., Schrodtwas not at the table.

“At 3:58, to be exact, I walked in to count the votes … andMichael Schrodt was not at the booth, which, to me, wasquestionable,” Elben said. “Someone is supposed to be [at thebooth] at all times. When he got back two minutes later, I took thevotes to count with Rich and Candidate ‘X’, who had 18 votes, nowhad 16. And Candidate ‘Y’ had 17. So, clearly, there was aproblem.”

Schrodt said he arrived at the booth around 3 p.m., left thebooth unattended for about a half hour total and counted theballots without a second member of SGA present.

Around 3:15 p.m. Schrodt went to check his mail. He said he wasback at the booth between 3:30 and 3:45 p.m.

Just before 3:45, three students voted.

“One person wasn’t paying attention, he was talking to hisfriend,” Schrodt said. “I think he thought he put [his ballot] in,but he just slid it across the top and it fell off the back. So, Ipicked it up … at which time I did open the box.”

Schrodt then counted the ballots.

“In an error of judgment, I did count them,” Schrodt said. “Idon’t know why, but I did.”

Schrodt said he got the same count Elben got at 4 p.m. Dependingon how those three students voted, at least two – but possibly five- ballots were tampered with. After counting the ballots, Schrodtleft the election booth again.

“I went up to [the Security Office] to use Chris [Frerich’s]phone to call Eric,” Schrodt said. “Chris started talking to meabout J[udicial] Board stuff … at which time, I realized that 15minutes had passed … I was going to call Eric, but then Irealized what time it was, so I went back [to the booth] withoutcalling. Eric was down there with the ballots in his hand.”

Schrodt took personal responsibility for the incident at lastweek’s senate meeting.

“It was my fault,” Schrodt said. “I did apologize to the senateand to the student body through that forum, and now through thispaper I issue my apologies to the senior class and to studentgovernment for damaging the integrity of our institution.”

Senior Kayla Schmidt is one of several senators who’vecirculated petitions to invoke the Impeachment Clause of SGA’sConstitution. At press time, not enough signatures were collectedto begin the investigation. However, the senators had until 7 p.m.last night to get enough signatures.

“I think the whole incident shows inappropriate behavior for aclass president, whether it was ballot-tampering or not,” Schmidtsaid. “This is not a witch hunt against Mike at all … butcounting the ballots without a witness was inappropriate.”

Schmidt said she is interested in a full investigation of theincident.

“Actually, when we started this process we were all hesitantbecause we respect Mike and don’t want this to be construed as apersonal attack,” Schmidt said. “We’re just trying to figure outwhat happened in this election.”

Schrodt said he agreed that an investigation must happen.

“I think the investigation part is completely appropriatebecause, at this point, I’m the only person that was in the realm,”Schrodt said. “They should know everything that I know, which,unfortunately, isn’t who did it or any of that.”

A new election date has not been set, but changes will be madeto the election process: two senators will be at the booth at alltimes, a lock will be placed on the box and a webcam may be used tomonitor the process.

“It will look different,” Elben said. “It has to look different.There will be changes to ensure the integrity of all future SGAelections. We’re not going to hold the election until we’re readyto do it right.”