Instead of walking to polling locations, or even to computer labs, for today’s student elections, freshmen and transfer students for the first time have the option of casting their votes from their own rooms — using their own personal computers.
Via e-mail, freshmen and transfer students received a personal pin number for voting from the University. In the message, the students click on the link to votehere.net, a business that runs electronic elections. Students will be prompted to type in their pin number and will submit their choices through the site.
Students can also vote using off-campus computers or computer labs. They can vote from 12:01 a.m. today to 11:59 p.m. on Thursday.
This fall’s elections is a pilot program for on-line voting. If the elections run smoothly, then the same process will be used in future elections.
“It’s experimental, but should be interesting,” said Michael Sellman ’04, vice president for internal operations for the Student Assembly (S.A.). “Who knows what to expect?”
On-line voting will reduce the costs of running the election as well.
“We’ve been tinkering with on-line voting for the last three years,” said Uzo Asonye ’02, S.A. president. “In the past we used paper ballots, Scantron ballots. It was cumbersome and there were environmental and cost issues since we used a lot of paper. We also had to hire a lot of workers and it took a couple of days to tabulate the results.”
“[On-line voting] reduces the amount of workers,” he said.
Last year the S.A. instituted on-line voting in its election system, but students had to travel to designated computer sites to cast their votes.
Members of the S.A. hope that the voter turnout will increase since the voting system may be more convenient for more students.
“Last year I ran for the New Student Seat, Class President, and Hotel School Rep. and found that people who didn’t vote wanted to, but simply couldn’t wait in line,” said Esther Tang ’04, Class of 2004 president and S.A. member. “When the time best suits the student, [he] can make the better choices.”
“Despite the fact that it makes voting so simple and easy for students, it is impossible to make any predictions because the system is brand new to us and the students,” said Mark Greenbaum ’02, S.A. vice president and director of elections.
Asonye hopes for an improvement on last year’s turnout. “We hope that students will take it as their duty to vote and pick who represents them,” he said.
Some of the freshmen think that more of their peers will take the time to vote this election.
“It’s convenient since you can do it anywhere,” Natalie Hooper ’05 said.
“Especially with all the freshmen on North, it’s hard to walk around without hearing ‘Vote for X, Vote for Y.”
Another benefit of on-line voting, the community centers won’t be overcrowded, as on past election days.
“It’ll be more convenient — no one likes [voting] at Willard Straight or RPCC. It clogs up the building,” Sellman said.
Security measures have been implemented to protect the elections. Along with other methods, the number of votes cast from each IP address will be tracked. Students that are found guilty of tampering with the voting will be sent to the Judicial Administrator (J.A.) and punished. Candidates involved with fraud will be disqualified from the elections and sent to the J.A. as well.
“[A voting infraction] would be a violation of campus code,” Asonye noted. “It would be falsifying identity and other Internet violations.”
In all, Greenbaum hopes that the benefits of the new voting procedure will outweigh the possible consequences.
“While we are using this new system out of cost necessity, we realize the inherent problems with this system. It could make voter fraud of several forms more prevalent. At the beginning I was diametrically opposed to electronic voting.
“However, because of the cost I realized we had to try it to save money. Once it is over the Student Assembly will examine it very closely to determine if it will use the electronic voting format in the future,” Greenbaum said.
With on-line voting, many people are considering the future implications of the process — whether it will be used in other university, state, or national elections.
“I don’t think so, [especially considering] the past presidential election and the [great potential for voter] mix-up. People are so concerned with Internet security. I can see more electronic voting, but not over the Internet,” Hooper said.
Tang agreed that on-line voting would not be a favorable option for national elections.
“At a larger level, I don’t think the average person, let alone the average American, would feel comfortable with on-line votes dictating federal policies,” she said. “We have seen too many computer-related mishaps and know too little about the powers of the Internet to feel confident that justice safely hitchhikes to and fro on the information superhighway.”
“The measures [for this election] are as secure as they could be,” Sellman commented. “On the national level, with the debacle in Florida, technology will become more advanced, but national voting is a more complicated issue.
“The percentage of people with computers is not as high as students with computers at Ivy League schools. In state or municipal elections, I can see it happening. They’re more open to that sort of thing.”
Asonye sees on-line voting moving to other universities.
“As technology becomes more secure, more efficient, more accessible, it will be used. It’s a trend of universities to revolutionize and take advantage of the Internet. It’s quicker, we get more detailed results of where they voted, what college the voter is in. It maintains the security and anonymity voting should have,” he said.
Archived article by Kelly Samuels