Words: Sarah Paz
The students of Centennial voted for their local student government association (SGA) and Student Member of the Board on Wednesday, April 24. The voting window ended Friday, April 26 in which 75 percent of students from grades 9 to 11 voted.
On Thursday, April 25, the Howard County Association of Student Councils announced that Reservoir junior Allison Alston won the position of Student Member of the Board for the 2019-20 school year.
On Friday, April 26, the Centennial Student Community page released an announcement stating for each position where there are two candidates, the candidates would share the positions.
Students raised concerns about the results of the election to media specialist Michelle Van Gieson, saying that they couldn’t vote or complete their ballot due to technology issues.
“Some students alerted the folks in charge of the SGA of this issue, so we knew these missing votes were not all intentional,” said principal Cynthia Dillon.
During the voting window, the internet network faced issues, resulting in 85 students not fully completing their ballot. Some students were unable to vote for certain positions which led administrators such as Van Gieson and Dillon to believe the technology issues affected the credibility of the election.
“At that time, out of the 926 ballots cast (including 85 incomplete ballots), one race had a single vote difference, one race had a 5-vote difference and one race had a less than 30-vote difference,” Van Gieson remarked in an email interview. “When Mrs. Dillon and I looked at the incomplete ballots Friday after school, just completing those ballots could change the outcome of the election of all 3 races in either direction.”
Knowing that those few ballots could change the course of the election, the administration considered a new plan of action.
“Some of the options [Dillon] suggested were to re-open the voting window and to ask the 85 students with incomplete ballots if they wanted to complete their ballot,” Van Gieson explained.
In response, she reopened the ballots temporarily, extending the voting window from Monday, April 29, to Wednesday, May 1 at 12:16pm. Twelve additional students voted.
“By Wednesday, 5/1, when the ballot closed again, the margins for the two very close races had widened by a few votes and the third race’s margin had gotten smaller,” said Van Gieson.
The 85 students who left an option blank were contacted by Mrs. Van Gieson to determine whether they left the option blank due to technology problems or they intentionally didn’t cast a vote. The administration allowed the students to cast a vote on a paper ballot.
To determine the winners of this election, the school decided to follow the guidelines issued in the Maryland Association of Student Councils, which states that the candidate has to win by 50 percent and an additional vote.
On the afternoon of May 1, after a week of waiting, the final results of the Centennial SGA Election were revealed. Christopher Lidard was elected to the position of president, Anika Huang was elected as vice president, Ally Paik was elected as corresponding secretary and Cissy Wang was elected as recording secretary.
These results remain uncontested. Some results of the election such as vote counts aren’t typically released as public knowledge.
“Unlike what happens in the ‘real world,’ we don’t typically announce the tally of school elections such as this one. The reasons for this have to do with the social [or] emotional impact these results could have on our young people… You are putting yourself out there and essentially asking your peers to tell you how they feel about your abilities or you as a person,” Dillon said.
“The SGA is vital for fostering student participation and student voice within the school experience,” she concluded. “As we look forward to next year and years to come, it’s important we work to ensure all student groups are represented and that our SGA is a vibrant and integral part of the fabric of our school culture.”
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