A student request for the results of the ASPSU election, which was postponed on Thursday March 11, has run up against PSU’s interpretation of the public records law.
The Office of Information Technologies received the request from Sara Gundell, a student.
Mark Gregory, executive director of the Office of Information Technologies, said that producing the results would take at least two to four hours of programming time to format the election results into a readable version. He estimated the amount owed could range from $98.22 to $196.44. If one employee could do the job in two hours, it would cost the estimated minimum. If it required four hours, it would cost the higher figure.
There was an immediate student outcry that in a regular election the results are available in an hour without a $98 fee, so why should there be a fee now? Gregory said this is true, that OIT provides that service, but this represents a different case.
“This was not a regular election,” he said. “The election system was not closed in the normal way.” To go back and interpret the codes for votes cast in a partial election would require special programmer time and effort.
In a regular election, he said, OIT is willing to devote some programmer time to the results.
Gundell’s request was made under terms of the Oregon Public Records Law. Gregory pointed out that the State Board of Higher Education has a rule that requires the prepayment of the costs of complying with a public records request.
Justin Myers, candidate for student body president, expressed a special interest in learning the results. He said OIT gave him a coded version of the results, which he found unreadable. His attempts to get the results interpreted at the student help desk were frustrated he said, by direct orders from the OIT.
Myers conceded that “they have the legal right to do what they did. If they had their heart in the right place they wouldn’t do this. It’s their legal right but I’m disappointed with their priorities.” He claimed that OIT could, if it wanted, compile readable election results in an hour or less.
Gundell’s election request was passed up to Jay Kenton, vice president for finance and administration. Kenton replied in a letter addressed to Gundell with a copy to Adam Zavala, ASPSU communications director.
In the letter, Kenton affirmed that the request was viable under the public records law and that the aborted results qualified as a public record. Consequently, he wrote, “Given this conclusion, PSU will provide you with a copy of the total number of votes cast by candidate.”
However, Kenton wrote that “Additionally, the State Board of Higher Education has adopted a rule that requires the prepayment of the costs associated with complying with a public records request.”
Kenton’s letter concluded by saying that the cost would be more than the $5 Gundell is willing to pay.
“However, once PSU receives a payment of $98.22 (the minimum cost associated with this request), PSU will complete the programming and bill you for the additional amount owed, if any,” he wrote.
Gregory estimated that the minimum quoted charge probably would cover the work necessary.
Myers contends that the administration has inflated the time required and the cost of producing readable results and feels students are being deprived of services to which they are entitled.
As for his own motivation as a candidate, Myers said as a student he takes a great interest in the election process.
“I worked very hard,” he said. “I would like to know how well I did. If I didn’t get many votes, I can change my strategy.”
The administration cancelled ASPSU’s election Thursday evening, March 11, one day before the polls closed. The rationale was that the cancellation occurred in acknowledgement of a grievance made by Reina Abolofia, due to a ruling made by the PSU election committee. Abolofia felt that the ruling had violated her First Amendment right to free speech.