April student town hall postpones SMOB election to May 20
May 5, 2020
The April 22 Student Town Hall meeting shed light on many of the changes taking place in Montgomery County due to the COVID-19 school cancellations—one of those changes being the process in which students vote for their Student Member of the Board (SMOB).
The SMOB election, originally scheduled for April 22, 2020, is now scheduled for May 20, 2020. There are currently two options for the upcoming election. The first is an in-school election day, which will occur if schools reopen before May 20. This in-school election would run the same way that schools have been officiating SMOB elections in the past. Students will access their MCPS emails during their English or ESOL classes, where they will have access to a link to a ballot that they can vote with.
The alternative option will be carried out if school closures extend into late May. With this option, on May 20 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., students will be able to vote by accessing a ballot link sent to their MCPS email. In addition to this ballot link, the email will contain individualized voting credentials assigned by VoteNet, the vendor running the official ballot.
Students should have already received two emails containing information regarding the updated election details—one during the week of April 17 and another on April 26. Both emails contain profiles of each candidate and a “Meet The Candidates” video, showcasing final candidates Nick Asante, (a junior at Richard Montgomery High School,) and Victoria Kidder, (a junior at Col. Zadok Magruder High School.) The finalists also recorded a short video expressing their thoughts on the COVID-19 situation, which can also be found in the aforementioned emails.
However, despite these emails and posted information on the MCPS website, many students have been unaware of the changes in the SMOB election process. This could potentially be problematic, because if students missed the election updates, they may also miss the window of time in which they are supposed to vote.
Students at Richard Montgomery have also expressed other concerns over the alternative voting system—particularly the concern that they may be unable to or forget to access the ballot link within the time frame. “I’m worried I might forget to vote, especially because I’m at home and I have different things to do during the day,” freshman Hrishita Mareddy said.
The fact that the election is taking place entirely online is something many students find to be an issue, especially since it means they have to take it upon themselves to learn more about the candidate platforms. In school, a whole class period is dedicated to learning about the candidates. At home, students may not have enough time, or simply may not want to watch the candidate videos.
Online voting may also greatly reduce voter turnout. Students may not have access to the right technology. “I think that… one issue may be accessibility to the SMOB elections. If students vote at home during an election window, that could potentially limit accessibility, especially since students would not have the set time that there is during class to vote,” freshman Avani Ambardekar said.
Students have also expressed disappointment over not being able to discuss the election with their peers. “It was funny because sometimes we would erupt into mini debates on which SMOB candidate was better. That made voting for SMOB a bigger and more fun experience,” freshman Claire Chen said. “It felt like we had a part in the school system. Now, we’re stuck and isolated at home, where we just vote with the click of a button.”
The general consensus among students seems to be that voting online is the best option during the quarantine period, but most also seem to agree that the original in-person election method would have been preferable under different circumstances. “Voting in person is the best way to do it,” freshman Anna Lee said.