Concern over voting fraud grows in union elections

Photo: Due to concerns regarding election policies, which some assert are insufficient to guard against voting fraud, some fear that the elections of the United Auto Workers Local 2865 could be unfair as a result of vote-tampering.
Kevin Hahn/Staff
Due to concerns regarding election policies, which some assert are insufficient to guard against voting fraud, some fear that the elections of the United Auto Workers Local 2865 could be unfair as a result of vote-tampering.

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Though Thursday marks the last day that members of a union representing academic student employees throughout the UC system can vote in the union's tri-annual statewide leadership election, which many assert is the most contested in the union's history, there has been concern that policies are not in place to ensure a fair election free from vote-tampering.

Members of the United Auto Workers Local 2865 - a union representing nearly 12,000 graduate students, readers and tutors - began voting Tuesday in the election. While an elections committee determined voting protocols before the election began, there has been growing concern that the policies are insufficient to protect against vote-tampering and fraud, according to Adam Hefty, the elections committee member from UC Santa Cruz.

According to Hefty, the elections committee agreed to protocol with "few serious protections against tampering," despite the fact that the union is facing what he said is the most contested election it has ever experienced, with two candidate slates and most campus, and all executive leadership, positions contested.

"There are lots of members that have been coming to the polls and voting, and their votes will certainly be counted, but the election protocol, or lack of protocol, does give me pause," he said. "We'll have to see what happens in the next couple of days before a final judgment can be made."

In a blog post, Hefty detailed some of the concerns, which included whether student identification must be shown at polling locations, how and where ballot boxes will be stored overnight and how ballots will eventually be counted.

However, Erik Tollerud, a UC Irvine graduate student and elections committee alternate, said he is confident that the policies the committee decided on will enable the union to have a fair election.

"I'm completely confident that the procedure we've decided on democratically as a committee will make it clear that if tampering was to happen, the procedures will make it clear, and then those issues can be addressed," Tollerud said.

While there is debate regarding whether or not election policies were adequate to protect against vote-tampering, both Tollerud and Hefty agreed that some of the concern going into this election stems from the union's highly contentious contract ratification vote late last semester and allegations by some that the policies enacted there were not sufficient to protect against possible vote-tampering.

While there is contention regarding election policies that were not approved, the policies that are in place do help ensure transparency in the election, said Megan Wachspress, a campus graduate student and head steward for the union at UC Berkeley.

According to Wachspress, the elections policies that were in place to protect against fraud in the election involve checking voter names against roll sheets and a two-envelope balloting system.

Lizzy Mattiuzzi, a UC Berkeley graduate student and elections committee chair alternate, said despite concerns raised regarding certain election policies, she is confident in the policies that are in place and is hopeful regarding the outcome of the election.

"Overall, I'm pretty confident that despite the fact that on the election committee we were outnumbered on certain procedures and policies we proposed, I have confidence in the process that we're putting out," Mattiuzzi said. "I'm confident in the process, even though I wasn't happy with every decision by the elections committee."


Aaida Samad covers higher education.

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