SA voting goes online

Joint Elections Committee members said they expect voting in next week’s student government elections to be easier and more efficient than past years, when the ballot process was described as time consuming and disorganized.

Students will vote online for Student Association, Program Board and Marvin Center Governing Board candidates Wednesday and Thursday, allowing them to vote from seven campus computer labs.

“My friends were waiting up to half an hour in line to vote last year,” SA President Roger Kapoor said. “With computer voting this year, we literally reduce the voting time from half an hour to half a second.”

A network between stations will allow students to click on the candidates they want to vote for. To prevent duplicate balloting, students must have working GW e-mail account and GWeb accounts and know the passwords for each.

The Joint Elections Committee has reviewed the election process, and members believe the process will run more efficiently than last year, senior and JEC Chair Scott Sheffler said.

SA Executive Vice President Josh Singer said this year’s online voting and paper ballot system costs the same amount as the paper ballot system used last year.
He said the money is spent mostly on the poll watchers, who earn $9 an hour verifying voters.

Those students without GW accounts, such as Law School students, will use paper ballots.

Seven polling stations are expected this year but have not been confirmed. Likely stations will be in the Marvin Center, Funger Hall, Thurston Hall and the Law School based on past election locations.

At these stations, poll watchers previously had to verify each voter’s student status and school to ensure the student had not yet voted. The online system is expected to improve the process by automatically verifying this information.

Voters will also be able to research candidates while voting. Election profiles for each candidate are available on the computerized system, which is not accessible to outside users.

“The voting system should create the most informed voters, increase voter turnout and produce the friendliest election process in years,” Kapoor said.

Some candidates and current SA senators have raised questions about sabotage to the online system and the possibility of computer failure, which would halt the election process. JEC officials ensured back-up plans, like paper ballots, are available if problems arise.

Sheffler said computer voting will be on a closed computer server. Little other information besides the voting will be stored on the server, reducing the risk for failure. The SA will use anti-hacking programs to prevent fraud and sabotage, he said.

Sheffler said the system will stop attempts to vote multiple times.

He added that election officials will check paper ballots against computer records to prevent students from voting online at one station and by paper at another.

“Students will not be able to vote more than once by computer and paper,” Sheffler said. “We will throw away the paper ballot if it occurs.”

Students studying abroad can also vote via e-mail. They simply need to send in their votes by Thursday at 5 p.m.

-Trevor Martin contributed to this report.

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