Student gov. refuses to disclose election results to media

Today, the Vanguard planned to report on the results of the 2005 elections of the Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU), the university’s student government.

Although the polls closed at 12 p.m. Thursday, current ASPSU President Christy Harper and members of Student Activities and Leadership Programs (SALP), the advisory body to student government, refused to provide the results, which are public record, to the paper until Friday. As a result, the Vanguard is unable to report on either official or unofficial results today.

The Vanguard made numerous attempts to acquire unofficial voting results Thursday, including filing several public records requests to student government and university administration and offering to delay publication of the results until after a Friday elections committee meeting.

Student government’s strategy, it seems, was to request the election results from the Office of Information and Technology on Thursday, although several student government sources said that the results could have released to ASPSU Thursday had Harper and the student Elections Committee requested them.

Though the results are public record, Harper claimed that she could not release the Vanguard because she had not yet received them.

"To date, no requests for the unofficial elections results have been denied. The results are not yet available to ASPSU. ASPSU does not have in any form, access to any results until Friday morning," Harper said in a statement Thursday evening.

Harper was able to report, however, that 2,432 votes were cast in the election.

ASPSU Elections Committee is not scheduled to publicly announce the results until 12 p.m. today. Because the Vanguard produced its final publication for the term today, the Vanguard is not able to report on the results announced at today’s meeting in print until the paper resumes publication at the beginning of spring term. Special supplemental reports will be published on the Vanguard website as developments occur during the break.

Beginning Monday, March 7, Vanguard Editor-in-Chief Christian Gaston contacted Tony Rasmussen, communications director for ASPSU, and the Office of Information Technology about receiving a copy of the election results, which are public records, by the Vanguard’s press deadline Thursday evening so the results could be reported in the Friday paper.

Because students vote using the Portland State Banweb website, the Office of Information Technology is responsible for tabulating the election results for ASPSU.

Gaston offered to delay distribution until after 12 p.m. Friday so that the newspaper coverage would not spoil the announcement of the results to the candidates.

The Vanguard was informed Wednesday night that Harper did not intend to release the results before the Friday meeting.

Prior to an Elections Committee meeting Thursday morning, Harper and Ryan Schowen, the committee chair, appeared to briefly consider advancing approval of the results to Thursday afternoon so that they could be released. After the committee meeting, candidates discussed releasing the results Thursday afternoon with Schowen.

Many candidates supported the idea. Schowen and Natalee Webb, SALP advisor to student government, both said that they were uncomfortable with the idea of releasing unofficial results before the committee approved them.

Webb also stated after the meeting that it would be possible to release the results Thursday if the committee decided to do so.

Harper and Schowen ultimately declined to release the results Thursday on the grounds that they are not official until the committee approves them Friday.

At 1:30 p.m. Thursday, the Vanguard delivered written public records requests for an unofficial tabulation of the election results to Harper, Schowen, Webb, SALP Director Tonantzin Oceguera and Cathy Dyck, interim vice president of finance and administration.

Harper and Webb, who received their copies of the records request in person, refused to fulfill the requests, saying they had not yet received the election results.

Schowen had left campus for the day at the time the records requests were delivered, but later said that he did not have the vote tally.

Schowen described the delay of the information as necessary to allow the committee to hear the rest of its business today, which includes a number of complaints against the Devaney/Woon slate. The delayed release of the information was orchestrated earlier this term.

Dyck responded that the Office of Information Technology works as a contractor to ASPSU when handling the election results so she is unable ask them to release the results to the Vanguard. However, she did confirm that the office had transmitted the results at 1:30 p.m.

Oceguera declined to fulfill the request, saying that she was advised that the results are not public record until they are certified by the Elections Committee.

Candidates from both slates expressed disappointment that the Vanguard is unable to release timely election results.

"It’ll be old news when it comes out after spring break," presidential candidate Erin Devaney said. "I’m curious to know how else the students are going to be informed."

"It’s not good for the students to not be informed," said Amanda Barron, who is also running for student body president. "I don’t think the elections committee even took that into consideration."