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87.8 percent of undergraduates voted in favor of Penn's divestment from fossil fuels.

Credit: Courtesy of mrhayata/Creative Commons

Last week, more Penn students voted for fossil fuel divestment than voted in the midterm elections.

The referendum to divest from fossil fuels passed on Friday with more than double the amount of votes needed. Thirty-three percent of undergraduate students voted in total, with 87.8 percent favoring divestment. In order for the referendum to be valid, 15 percent of the student body had to vote and 50 percent had to favor divestment.

Related: Fossil fuel referendum reaches checkpoint

However, students who enrolled in fewer than four classes, an option popular with seniors, had trouble voting because of the way the computer voting system works.

The Nominations and Elections Committee, which runs all student government elections on campus, uses a University computer system to keep track of votes. NEC Chair Devin Grossman said they used the University voting system because it is highly secure, but the system prevents certain students from voting. The NEC was able to override the system and count these students’ votes if they reached out directly to the NEC by email. Grossman said that every vote submitted by email was counted.

“Every student that reached out was able to vote,” he said.

He said the problem is ongoing in every student government election because of the nature of the voting system, which is used in every Undergraduate Assembly and Class Board election.

However, in the confusion of the process, some students were simply told that they could not vote and did not know that they could submit an email in lieu.

Chair of Fossil Free Penn Peter Thacher attributed the referendum’s resounding success to the efforts of the club in recruiting students to vote. Volunteers set up voting tables with laptops at major intersections, dining halls and dorms on campus and also went door to door in residential houses.

In the wake of the referendum, Thacher said the group is still debating its next step toward divestment but will definitely pursue conversations with the Board of Trustees.

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