Less then two weeks before GUSA’s executive campaign kicks off, the Election Commission said this week that it will announce only the winners of the contest, and not the full percentage results.

Election Commission Chair Benita Sinnarajah (NHS ’06) said that the commission decided it would not release “numeric results of any kind” following the election. Sinnarajah did not explain the reasoning behind the decision.

The decision breaks several years of precedent for the student association’s executive elections and follows a recent trend by the Election Commission to release less election information to students.

The commission never disclosed the full results of the last two Assembly elections, in April and November.

Many GUSA members said that they disagreed with the commission’s decision not to release the presidential vote totals, although they agreed that the commission has the power to release the election returns selectively.

GUSA President Pravin Rajan (SFS ’07) said that the bylaws leave all decisions concerning election returns to the Election Commission’s discretion, but he questioned the policy of not releasing all of the results.

“It doesn’t seem in line with the spirit of the bylaws,” he said. “And I don’t quite understand it.”

Rajan’s chief of staff Andrew Rau (COL ’06) chaired an Assembly committee that approved substantial amendments to the election bylaws in 2004 after a disputed presidential election that year. He said that the bylaws require that the commission wait 24 hours before disclosing the “election results.”

“However, the term `election results’ could be interpreted as simply a statement of who won, or as the specific percent of the vote that each candidate received,” he said.

While Rau acknowledged that the commission has the power to determine how to interpret the law, he said that he favored releasing the full results.

“There’s no point in holding out on revealing percentages,” he said. “It accomplishes nothing as far as I can tell.”

Ultimately, the Assembly could have the final say over how much information to release to students after the election. The Assembly, which is constitutionally required to certify all election results, approved the results of the last two Assembly elections without all of the figures.

Assembly Chair Ed Duffy (SFS ’07) said that the commission is not explicitly required to release percentages, but added that he interprets the law as calling for this information to be made public. He said that the Assembly may choose to intervene in the publication of the results.

“We are considering initiating a resolution that would explicitly call for the Election Commission and the Constitutional Council to release the full election results, starting with the upcoming presidential elections,” he said.

Rau demurred on whether the release of incomplete results would weaken the legitimacy of the election in the eyes of students.

“I don’t think it actually and inherently would do so since there’s no reason to think that the [commission] is just lying about the results,” he said. “But I think that in the public mind it could de-legitimize it since people expect specific numbers.”

But James Lengle, associate professor of government, said that the legitimacy of an election is based on the transparency of the election and publication of the results.

“This is a terrible policy,” Lengle said. “Even the old communist systems released election results.”

The first time in recent memory that the Election Commission withheld percentage totals, after last April’s Assembly elections, coincided with the disqualification of three candidates from the junior class’s elections for bylaw violations. The commission’s decision to withhold vote totals prevented the top write-in candidates from filling the vacancies created by the disqualifications.

Sinnarajah said that the commission is prepared to arbitrate any possible bylaw disputes that result in disqualifications.

“If there was a problem with anything, we would certainly take care of it and discuss that matter with the candidates,” she said.

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