Student Council officers elected legitimately


Ji-Ho Lee

On Tuesday, April 11, the student council officers for the 2017-2018 school year were announced. Dalton Nunamaker and Parker Brummett were elected as president and vice president of the school respectively.
To find a winner, student council organized a vote through surveymonkey, an online survey website. Student Council president Justin Hajicek explained that the voting process, as well as the method of counting the votes, provided a legitimate and untampered winner.
“We used surveymonkey because it’s much more secure than other online voting mechanisms,” Hajicek said. “Three people looked over each vote individually. A chunk of votes were thrown out because invalid or duplicated student numbers were used, but the votes were counted accurately.”
Especially in an election with a magnitude as large as this one, Hajicek realizes the importance of legitimacy when announcing the winner.
“Security and integrity are so important when it comes to elections,” Hajicek said. “We want the leaders to be representatives of the student body so it’s extremely important to make sure the elections are a reflection of that.”
Invalid votes have been a subject of controversy at RBHS this year, particularly after some students added fraudulent tallies to the Courtwarming elections earlier in the school year. Student council sponsor Kelley Wittenborn cited the issues presented during those elections as another reason for using surveymonkey.
“After the mess of Courtwarming, with our internal program being accessed by unauthorized voters, we decided we might try a more ‘official’ surveying and voting program that would be much more difficult to hack or access,” Wittenborn said. “I’ve worked with surveymonkey a lot in my professional career, and if you actually purchase a subscription instead of just doing the trial, there are a lot more efficient options for designing and monitoring a survey.”
Furthermore, Wittenborn explained that certain features of surveymonkey make it more secure than other programs.
“Once votes are cast, even as an admin of the ballot, surveymonkey doesn’t allow numbers to be deleted or tampered with,” Wittenborn said. “At this point, it’s been the most secure program I’ve worked with.”
Outside of the security measures provided by the program itself, manual labor was also involved in ensuring a legitimate final vote. Wittenborn, activities secretary Hannah Casey and school president Dr. Jennifer Rukstad looked over the votes. Wittenborn selected the specific additional pair of eyes as Casey played an integral role in the election process by accepting and processing petitions and speaking to the candidates about their campaigns. Furthermore, Wittenborn believed that due to Dr. Rukstad’s role as principal, she should have been involved in the process and made aware of the results and final counts before the students were notified.
On occasion, the trio of overseers removed a vote if it was deemed to be invalid, based on the student number.
“You could technically vote multiple times, but surveymonkey categorized those votes from the same student number into groups, and those votes were discarded,” Wittenborn said. “I also discarded votes where someone entered ‘00000’ or any other invalid student number into the space. Other than that, we just looked at the number of votes cast and compared with past numbers, and everything seemed incredibly legitimate and accurate.”
Before the voting took place, however, the campaigning process took place for the candidates. Sophomore Noah Patrick believed the entire election process was entertaining and exciting.
“I liked seeing all the posters around school about the election, and it got me interested in voting and excited for next year in general,” Patrick said. “I think all candidates are great leaders, and I know RBHS will be a great school next year.”
Hajicek believes that campaigning in general has many positives for both the candidates who are running and voter turnout.
“I think campaigning is great for getting the word out about voting,” Hajicek said. “It adds some publicity to the voting and gets kids excited about who they want to lead them next year.”
This year’s campaigns were also different than in past years, as more parameters were added to the process. Wittenborn explained that last year, candidates handed out candy and hung up hundreds of posters, which overwhelmed the process and ultimately caused friction between nominees. This year, a limit was placed on the number of posters that were published, and students couldn’t hand out anything that had potential monetary value.
“We wanted the process to be as fair and upbeat as possible; to keep it friendly and keep the focus on the idea that, ‘We’re all on the same team here, and we all want what’s best for the school,’” Wittenborn said. “I think this year the four students campaigning did an absolutely wonderful job to find the balance between advocating and campaigning for themselves while also being dignified and respectful of their competition.”
Another difference in the election process this year was that seniors were allowed to vote.
“This is a widely discussed and debated topic; whether seniors should vote in things for next year,” Wittenborn said. “Truthfully, we like to have the strong belief that our outgoing seniors want only good things for their school, and even as an alma mater, students should always care about what is happening in their high school.”
Despite the peaks and valleys of the 2016-2017 school year, Hajicek believes the honest election of next year’s officers is a positive way to conclude an exciting year.
“Overall, I think we’ve had a great year,” Hajicek said. “It’s truly been an honor and a privilege to serve my friends and fellow students as Student Council President and I know next year’s officers will do the same.”