This year’s GUSA presidential election brought about a lot of questions, but at the middle of all the hype was Election Commissioner Maura Cassidy (COL ’08). Getting involved with the student association this year as part of her involvement with the Senior Class Committee, Cassidy found herself at the focal point of the GUSA election controversy. In an interview with THE HOYA, Cassidy talks about the controversial decision to hold a second election this year and her own views on the topic.

How long have you been involved with GUSA?

I am actually not directly involved with GUSA. I was just the election commissioner. [The job was] part of my role I am in the Senior Class Committee. I am the communications chair and part of that role is being the election commissioner for the [senatorial] and presidential elections.

What was your motivation for becoming election commissioner?

Last year when I was a junior I was interested in becoming involved with the Senior Class Committee board. I applied for a bunch of positions, one of which was the communications chair which came part and parcel with the elections commissioner position.

Can you talk to us about the decision to proceed with a second vote – how it was made and what was the reasoning behind it?

y role was that I had all the data of what people voted for, [how] they voted, et cetera, so my job as election commissioner was to count the votes and announce the results. What I saw was there were eight candidates and we used the same instant runoff vote ballot that we used last year, but last year there were fewer candidates. So we did the exact same thing – last year you also had to rank all the candidates. Last year it worked perfectly well; it was a really smooth election. This year, it was a little more confusing because we had a lot more candidates. I think [the voting was] a little overwhelming, and what I saw was that the result might have been skewed in some way. . I spent a lot of time thinking about it and trying to figure out what is the right thing to do and after a couple of days of thinking about it, I suggested a runoff. It was up to the [GUSA] Senate to certify the election or not, that was just my suggestion which they followed eventually with a few specific rules about how the election should be done. . The election commissioner is such a funny position, nobody wants to be the one policing other students and especially during the campaign period. It’s an odd spot to be in and having another organization you’re not involved with giving you their rules for their results.

What was the thinking behind having the second voting process [use] the instant runoff vote ballot again?

The second time we changed it a little bit. You didn’t have to rank all the candidates, which I think makes a big difference and will make a big difference in the future if they ever have more than that many candidates.

Will GUSA continue to use IRV?

It is up to [GUSA] if they completely want to ditch IRV and go back to the majority voting. I am sure that I will have that conversation with them before the end of the year.

What would you recommend?

I think that we definitely realized on the second ballot that that format made more sense, changing it from the bubbles to the boxes. I think that the rules about campaigning need to be a lot more specific, especially things about electronic campaigning, which was kind of a big deal during these elections. It is allowed, it is just that there are weird restrictions on it.

How do you feel about [GUSA’s] reactions?

The reactions have been varied – I have had a lot of reactions from various people. Overall, I think that it is one of the best things that we have had a lot of feedback about what to do better, et cetera. A lot of people were confused and they were judging without knowing. All of the candidates were pretty aware of what was going on because I was in constant touch with them before I said anything to GUSA. There was a lot of confusion among the student body, and that is a hard thing because there is no easy way to convey that message and explain all the information about numbers etc. It is hard to get their attention and I think it is easy to dismiss it as `GUSA messed up again.’ It was a problem with how things went but I don’t think it was a horrible thing to happen. We had the biggest turnout in years and a lot more people interested. More people voted in the second election, just because this whole thing brought more publicity. Another reason for the runoff was that whoever takes office wants to feel strong about it, and with an ambiguous result that would not be possible. And the candidates embraced the fact that I was trying really hard to just do the right thing. It could have been the same results with the second elections, and I wouldn’t personally care necessarily, I didn’t want different results. The fact that we had different results the second time shows that it should have happened. It makes a difference that the person who came first in the first round came in third in the second round. It is terrible to override the system, and I don’t want to be in that position, but it was something that needed to be made clear. I am not affiliated with GUSA, I don’t know the candidates. I am not going to be here next year. I could have just announced the results; it would have been easier. I just wanted to run the election as smoothly as possible.

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