The Student Government Association’s misplacement of 32 student voter registration forms last fall could have changed the results of the Union Township supervisor race.
On Oct. 11, SGA Vice President and Hesperia senior Killian Richeson found 32 registration forms in his office separated from more than 500 voter registration forms submitted by the group. But, due to the Oct. 9 voter registration deadline, the SGA was unable to turn the voter registration forms in, resulting in 32 students being unable to vote. The SGA responded with a public apology, along with personal apologies to all 32 affected students.
The extra 32 voters could have potentially handed Union Township Supervisor Russ Alwood’s position to the former Democratic incumbent John Barker.
The tightest election race in Isabella County came down to a recount, and ended with both Alwood and Barker tied with 1,633 votes each. On Dec. 10, over a month after the election, Alwood won the race in a drawing, pulling the winning slip of paper from a box in the Isabella County building.
Alwood said the misplacement of the forms was only one example of disorganization throughout the local election. He declined to comment on other examples of disorganization.
“Things need to be done a lot better around here. We need better organization, and we will be more organized next election,” Alwood said. “Isabella citizens and students alike need to know that when they show up to vote, their ballot will be counted.”
Union Township Clerk Margie Henry could not give specifics but confirmed the registration forms could have changed the outcome of the race.
“I can’t reveal how students voted, or predict how they could have voted, but if those students voted, the results could be different,” Henry said.
Alwood said that although student votes could have changed the Union Township elections, he fears that students don’t always have the education to make the right decision on a local level.
“A lot of the time, a university student will simply vote across party lines,” Alwood said. ” They’re not aware of their local area, they’re not aware of the issues, they’re not aware of who is running. I question whether university students should be allowed to vote locally.”
Gawronski said the Union Township race does not change anything for the SGA.
“I see it as two separate issues,” Gawronski said. “Those students should have still had the opportunity to vote. We have apologized for that and are working so that it doesn’t happen again. What happens or doesn’t happen due to our mistake doesn’t make a difference to us. The error doesn’t change due to its consequences.”
Gawronski said SGA is currently developing a new process for handling registration forms so a similar incident does not occur in the future.
“We just want to make sure we establish a solid procedure so we can account for every form the next registration drive,” Gawronski said.