The Monday morning of election week at the University of Minnesota, Caroline Pavlecic, an MSA at-large representative running for another term, went to the All Campus Election Commission (ACEC) website to vote.
She was surprised when she noticed the voter guide for candidates directly below the link to vote. She clicked on it.
"I wasn't in it," she said.
She searched her email, but found nothing about a voter guide.
Thirty-one candidates ran for at-large representative seats, but only 15 were on the voter guide. Pavlecic was one of the 16 candidates not included and one of the nine who didn't even receive an email about the voter guide.
The voter guide was going to be an excellent reform by ACEC. It was a chance for candidates to show voters in-depth information about themselves to supplement the short campaign statement on the ballot. Instead, it turned into one of the many missteps ACEC had this election cycle. The voter guide exposed basic communication failures of the ACEC and demonstrated broader competency issues. It was a lost opportunity for meaningful reform.
Brayden Rothe, an at-large representative running for another term, said he was frustrated about not being on the voter guide. He did all of his paperwork correctly and on time, and had even gone to an ACEC event.
"It was before the debate — the [Minnesota Student Association] presidential debate. People from ACEC were there. I know several were in attendance. It was essentially candidates meeting other candidates," he said.
Apostolos Kotsolis, another at-large representative running for re-election, had an even more frustrating experience.
"The first time I heard the voter guide questions was actually in that meeting, before that whole thing happened. They mentioned voter guide questions. I didn't receive that email [about voter guide questions], so I was completely unaware," Kotsolis said.
He said he assumed they were talking about basic descriptions of candidates, where they could attach their name.
"They said a lot of people have not done the voter guide questions. ... I assumed they were probably talking about this one question we had to answer [during registration]," Kotsolis recalled. "They obviously have a list of all the people who haven't responded to those questions. I am one of them. I am in this room. No one said, 'Hey, you're one of them. You haven't responded to the voter guide questions.'"
Although it was easy to follow up with Kotsolis, nobody said anything about the voter guide. It went up the following Monday without his information on it, despite his presence at the meeting where the commission discussed the low voter guide response rate.
The voter guide that did go out was an unfair one. How can a voter responsibly decide who to vote for if half the potential candidates aren’t in the guide?
Pavlecic said Student Unions and Activities took the voter guide down after she called, and ACEC soon instructed her that she would be able to resubmit her info on a new voter guide. However, SUA later said the voter guide wouldn’t go back up at all because a significant number of candidates were not contacted about the voter guide. Campus election reform ended before it ever really began.
These kinds of mistakes cannot happen as frequently like they do at ACEC, a student group that runs elections for the entire University system.
"I guess it kind of just falls under oversight, like a simple check," Rothe said.
Rothe is right, but sometimes when it comes to elections on campus, student government and University administration, some ideas just make too much sense.