‘ For at least the third time in a row Associated Student elections encountered technical difficulties which caused the Elections Committee to suspend the elections and void all the ballots. A.S. is opting for paper ballot voting next month because they couldn’t guarantee the integrity of the votes, they said.
A total of 1,590 students voted at the elections on Tuesday, said A.S.
The first issue occurred when students previewed the ballot and pushed the back button, resulting in a message that stated they had already voted. The issue would only have been resolved if the student notified A.S. to voice their concern. However, there was no way of reaching every student this happened to.
About 85 students reported an error message and of those, 58 were eligible to vote. The remaining 27 students were ineligible to vote either because they were students from the College of Extended Learning or they hadn’t paid the A.S. fee.
Another issue that came up was that some of the candidates had been pre-selected on the ballot.
‘It was an issue that was brought up by the Sundial and when we looked at the situation and said, ‘wait a minute,’ there could be the possibility that if someone came in with a pre-selected ballot and they didn’t know what they were doing and they just hit submit,’ Director of Elections Mazen Hafez said.
Students could have also voted for their friend and not noticed that their ballot had pre-selected candidates, therefore giving someone a vote they didn’t intend to give, said Hafez.
‘(The Election Committee) felt (it was) the only fair thing to do at that point, because it was a problem with so many students and we didn’t know if the results were compromised,’ Hafez said after conducting a meeting with his committee.
‘The fact that we didn’t know spoke volumes to us and there’s also perception because students lose respect (for) our elections,’ he said. Hafez gave the example of the campus quality fee in which student elections were not held to approve or deny it because voter turnout is low.
Eddie Romero, a junior electric engineering major, was one of the students who received a message stating he had voted before he actually had. Romero agreed that suspending the elections was a good move on the part of the Elections Committee.
‘When you have a system that doesn’t work, it makes it less credible,’ Romero said.
After several students reported that they could not vote due to technical issues, poll workers had them write their student identification number on a voter guide and then circle their choices for senators.
‘What happened was a lapse in judgement,’ Hafez said.
‘Obviously they wouldn’t have been accepted because there are balloting procedures and what we did with those people was e-mail each of them and placed a telephone call to them and told them the vote didn’t count, but that they could vote online or at the polls,’ he said.
Walking towards the voting station, Ebony Conley was instead greeted with a flyer that said the elections had been suspended and that due to technical difficulties all who had voted would have to revote.
She said the inconvenience of having to cast her vote again would not keep her from returning to vote on Nov. 12 and 13, she said.
‘… I try to vote in all of the elections because my vote does count,’ the senior sociology major said. ‘Senators and elected officials have a lot of say in what happenens with your money.’
‘The election engine was built by a consultant, and while he was able to address the symptoms encountered during the last round of elections, he was unable to pinpoint their root cause. The issues we saw in this round of elections were not encountered during any of the testing performed by AS and SAIT,’ Paul Schantz, director of web and technology services for the division of Student Affairs, said in a prepared statement.
‘We will rebuilt the system from the ground up at no additional cost to AS,’ said Schantz. ‘There is a need for an electronic voting system on campus and we’ve always been interested in rebuilding the system, but for this election there wasn’t the time or the resources to do it.’
Schantz and his staff at the Student Affairs IT tested the program four times, three of which were conducted by the freshmen at their orientation and one was a mock trial held during the semester.
Neither of the issues came up during testing, said Schantz.
‘This was not my fault, I would admit if it was my fault,’ Hafez said. ‘I stood on a limb and said if you gave me the money, I would get results.’
A.S. funds allocated $16,000 for this election, and only $2,000 remains.
Hafez said he is disappointed he didn’t produce the results he expected and is looking forward to the elections in mid-November that will ‘definitely’ use paper ballots.