Online voting system doubles voter count for SGA’s fall elections

After failed attempts in the past, an online voting system for Student Government Association (SGA) elections has finally been dubbed a success.

Last Monday and Tuesday, 1,081 students voted in the election, becoming part of SGA’s first successful attempt to launch an online election.

In the past, fall elections have had an average of 500 voters, while spring elections have had an average of 800, Daria Silvestro, SGA alternate student trustee and elections chair, said.

The new system provided all students with access to voting, whether on or off campus, and also exhibited the capacity to handle large amounts of votes accurately and timely.

Problems in the past were mainly the result of poor planning, using an outside vendor and using a server that was not up to speed, Silvestro said.

“SGA used Enterprise Applications, an office of the College, and off-campus students were allowed to vote off campus this time,” she said.

“They conducted a lot of testing to make sure the kinks were all worked out. Also, there were no executive board positions up for voting, so there was less of a risk if anything went wrong voting online again.”

The voting was for each year’s class council and several senator positions. Silvestro said Xiao-Ming Sun, associate director of Enterprise Applications, helped make the elections run smoothly.

“She really went above and beyond,” Silvestro said. “It was because of her that everything was done when it needed to be.”

In the past, students have had to enter Brower Student Center and use old-fashioned election booths to vote for SGA representatives.

There were four booths, one set up for each class, since class officer positions can only be voted for by the members of their respective classes.

With the online voting, when students sign in using their TESS (The Electronic Student Services) student ID number identification information, the system already knows what class the student is a member of, and sets up who that student can vote for automatically.

Leo Muchnik, freshman political science major, said, “I think (online voting) brought in more voters. It will take you more time to walk down and vote than the two seconds it would take you to sit there and do it on your computer.”

Ravi Kaneriya, newly elected senator at-Large, said he had his reservations about the voting system, but was impressed with its success in the end.

“Although I still think that it is easier to cheat the system in online voting, I think it has done wonders for getting more people to participate in the democratic process,” he said. “I think the other advantage of online voting is that people can take their time to read the candidates’ profiles and actually know what they are about.”

In the past, students would read candidate profiles outside the voting booths.

“I think with online voting, people were more likely to read what the candidates were all about because it was easier to do in the comfort of one’s dorm, and this greatly enhanced the quality of the votes of many people,” Kaneriya said.

“So, in sum, online voting isn’t perfect, but I guess you can say that I’m slowly becoming more of a believer.”

SGA is looking forward to voting online again next semester, Silvestro said. She mentioned areas she would like to improve, including the format of the voting page, more publicity, higher number of voters and more specific campaign rules.

“(The next time) we expect it to go really well since we now have experience,” she said. “We are really looking forward to it and our goal is to get well over 2,000 voters.”