The Collegian
Monday, August 08, 2022

Fraud leads to revote of student organization lodge name

<p>Former SAE lodge that is being remodeled for student organizations to use after spring break.</p>

Former SAE lodge that is being remodeled for student organizations to use after spring break.

The Richmond College Student Government Association and Westhampton College Government Association reset the voting process for the new student organization lodge name after a logistical mistake led to voter fraud. 

The voter fraud happened because the Google Form did not restrict voters to one submission per person, according to an Instagram post from the RCSGA and WCGA accounts on Jan. 31. The technological mistake resulted in students submitting multiple ballots. 

The new student organization lodge, which was formerly occupied by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, who is no longer affiliated with UR, is being renovated to become a space open to any student organization for events and meetings, according to a Collegian article.

Anthony Lawrence, senior and president of RCSGA, said he had found the fraud by looking at a timestamped Google Sheets report and had noticed that a name had been submitted many times every few seconds. 

"Every four seconds there was a submission," Lawrence said, "and from a statistical standpoint, that's not going to happen if one person is able to vote [only once]."

The name that won from the original survey had been submitted multiple times by one person, Lawrence said. Lawrence did not comment on what the winning name was.

Because of the mistake, RCSGA and WCGA restarted the voting process and sent out a new survey that closed on Feb. 6, according to the Instagram post. 

"We decided it would be the most fair to actually conduct this vote again so that students' voices can be represented and we can honor the democracy that we are always pursuing," Penny Hu, junior and president of WCGA, said.

This kind of voting – a large-scale public survey through Google Forms – was new to both RCSGA and WCGA, Lawrence said.

The student governments usually used a different system for voting, Hu said.

"Usually for technology, if it's a very big survey or voting stuff, we actually work with the university to make sure that we have a firm system," Hu said.

Lawrence and Hu said restarting the vote would not affect the naming and opening process much. 

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"[The voter fraud] doesn't really affect the student [organization] lodge opening at all. It is the same time as it was planned," Hu said. "Everything stayed the same, except that we are just going to have another voting."

Joe Boehman, Richmond College dean, said restarting the vote would really only affect the graphics being developed for the name announcement.

"It might just be that we don't have all the fun graphics up with it, but [the student organization lodge] will still be open and ready to roll," Boehman said. 

The results of the vote should be announced at the end of the week, Hu said. 

Despite complicating the process, Boehman said he had been happy with the way the RCSGA and WCGA handled the situation and were transparent about the error. 

"Certainly a mistake was made," he said, "but, you know, I'm really pleased with the way both the RCSGA and WCGA owned up to it."

In the future, Lawrence said he, RCSGA and WCGA would be sure to be diligent in monitoring their voting processes. 

"We learn from the mistake," Lawrence said. "We'll make sure to cross our t's and dot our i's."

Contact copy editor Emily Weiner at emily.weiner@richmond.edu.

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