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The voting website crashed on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after voting was set to begin.

April 28, 2021

Student Elections Begin With a Crash; Voting Period to be Extended

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Voting for Student Election Day began Tuesday at noon, but students only made it to the virtual polls for 30 minutes until the voting website crashed — putting a wrench in the elections process after weeks of student campaigns.

The Office of Assemblies wrote in a Tuesday evening email to the Cornell community that it will extend the voting period, as the website remains down after it crashed in the afternoon and expects it to work again Wednesday.   

Patrick Mehler ’23 — founder and president of Cornell Votes, who was introduced as director of elections to increase voter turnout and reduce technological issues — told The Sun Tuesday afternoon that the website crashed because more people than expected tried to vote at once and the website was unable to handle the requests.

Gina Giambattista, director of the Office of Assemblies, said the office is working closely with Cornell IT to fix the error as quickly as possible.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience as we get back online, and will send out an email to all students once the situation has been resolved or with further update,” Giambattista wrote. 

But for some candidates and supporters who are weeks into student election season, the crash was disappointing.

Zion Sherin ’23, who is running for Student Assembly president, said the website crash was unfortunate to many of his supporters, who were looking forward to voting on the first day of elections. Sherin said this is the second time this school year that campus elections have faced voting issues.

“We need to be prepared to handle elections and respect both candidates’ and voters’ time,” Sherin said.

Morgan Baker ’23, candidate for S.A. executive vice president, said that at the time of the website crash Mehler informed the candidates that voting would likely be pushed back because of the crash. In a later email, Mehler wrote that the elections will be pushed back at least 24 hours.

“I think Patrick is doing everything he can to ensure the election continues to run smoothly,” Baker said.

Valentina Xu ’22, candidate for S.A. president, said when voting opened, she received an influx of emails with the subject lines “action required” from candidates notifying students to vote, which she believes could have caused the crash.

“I think this year will be higher voter turnout,” Xu said. “It is very great, and I would encourage people to come back to vote when the site goes up again.”

Jenniviv Bansah ’23, candidate for S.A. executive vice president, said despite the delay, it is great to see so many people want to have their voices heard.

“I’m not sure when the site will go live again, but when it does, I encourage every student to vote and be a part of a positive, unified change,” Bansah said.

Mehler told The Sun that he will be meeting with the trustee and Class Council election heads tomorrow to discuss how long they will extend the voting period. 

Anuli Ononye ’22, Sun columnist and S.A. presidential candidate, said Mehler has communicated consistently with the candidates. 

“I am thankful for Cornell’s IT team for all the work that they are doing,” Ononye wrote to The Sun. “I am looking forward to the site being up again and getting back to campaigning.”

Campus student elections are no stranger to technical difficulties: Last semester, a ballot validation issue caused the assembly to run the election again, and in 2019, a disqualification error caused two students to fill the student-elected trustee position instead of one. 

The Office of the Assemblies announced on Wednesday afternoon, the website is running, and the voting period will be extended until Friday, April 30 at 5 p.m. EDT.

Tamara Kamis ’22 contributed reporting.

Update, April 28, 3:40 p.m.: This article has been updated to include that the voting website is running again as of Wednesday afternoon.