Homecoming nominations vulnerable to fraud

Natalie Burkhart

Sabina Marroquin, history education senior, won 2014 Homecoming Queen and Elijah wire, sport and leisure studies senior, hug with excitement when they find out the won 2014 Homecoming Queen and King, Saturday night at Memorial Stadium. Photo by Rachel Johnson
Sabina Marroquin, history education senior, and Elijah Wire, sport and leisure studies senior, hug with excitement when they find out they were named the 2014 Homecoming Queen and King. Photo by Rachel Johnson

Homecoming is rich with tradition. Alumni come back to reminisce about their time at school, whether as Indians or Mustangs. Students rally around the bonfire to support the as yet undefeated football team. And they vote for the traditional Homecoming king, queen and court.

“We really encourage students to vote, vote, vote. And nominate your friends. Nominate the people that you’ve seen that really exemplify what a Mustang man or a Mustang woman should be for MSU,” Shayla Owens, student assistant to the Student Government Association office, said.

In 2012 students voting in the Homecoming election were accused of using Mustang ID numbers to stack the deck for individual candidates. After two years of elections held behind the protected portal, this year, the online system for nominating candidates is again vulnerable to fraud.

Last year, students logged in to the university’s portal requiring both an ID number and password. This year the system for nominating candidates uses OrgSync and manual validation. The name and classification of every nominee and nominator have to be manually verified as being students in the same grade level. The votes of students voting for other students not in their classification would be discarded, Mikayla Dunlap, chair of the student elections board, said.

Students can vote for two people, one male and one female, in their classification although nothing in the online system prevents students from voting for multiple females or people outside their classification.

However, Dunlap said, “If I see that you have only voted for two females, or the same female twice, one of those will get thrown out.”

Because the university has no online directory and releasing student identification numbers is a violation of university policy, only a university employee can validate that an M-number manually typed into the system matches the name entered with it.

And nothing prevents one student from voting on behalf of a number of other individuals as long as he or she had their M-numbers.

“You’re not supposed to give out your M-number,” Dunlap said, noting that she and Treva Clifton, assistant to the vice president, were the only ones looking at the M-numbers.

This year, rather than being handled through the university portal, the election is being handled through OrgSync, a private, online management system for campus groups.

Cammie Dean, director of student development and orientation, said OrgSync is a software package purchased on a bi-annual basis. She said there is no cost to use it specifically for the Homecoming elections. After it is purchased, there is no additional cost.

Taylor Duval and Kayla Gray are 2013 Homecoming King and Queen.
Taylor Duval and Kayla Gray were named the 2013 Homecoming King and Queen.

“Everything that’s related to the process of running organizations is handled through OrgSync,” Dean said.

With all validations scheduled to be complete before a meeting of the top vote-getters Monday, Oct. 12, Dunlap said she thinks the elections of the eight members of the Homecoming court will go smoothly.

“I hope they do, but you can never predict something like this,” she added.

The modifications to the Homecoming rules made in 2013 will be kept for these elections, including student involvement, volunteer hours and recommendation letters. She said these help to make sure candidates are involved and help to find a well-rounded student. Once candidates are announced, a formal meeting will be held with them as well.

Dunlap also said a committee of elected student senators will help her deal with problems. However, she refused to reveal the members of the committee despite repeated requests, and they were not listed in SGA minutes from the first meeting this year.

Dunlap, who is also a student employee in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, said, “I don’t feel comfortable disclosing their names in case anything happens.”

The top four vote-getters in each of the eight categories will be placed on a second ballot and must also meet other requirements as approved in 2013. For a candidate to win, excluding the king and queen, he or she must prove community service hours, submit at least two recommendation letters, and win popular vote. The homecoming king and queen must prove their membership in organizations, including demonstrating leadership skills on and off campus.

CLARIFICATION: The nominations process that takes place this week uses OrgSync. The election of the Homecoming court will take place Oct. 19 at 5 p.m. until Oct. 23 at 5 p.m.

UPDATE Oct. 13: The election of the court will take place behind the protected university portal according to Dunlap.

EDITORIAL: Can they really validate everything?