ASUS to introduce online polling

System awaits final approval from IT Services

For ASUS executive candidates, the election night wait may be a little shorter this year.

ASUS is setting up an online voting system for their Jan. 30 election.

Brooks Barnett, ASUS chief electoral officer, said online voting will make the counting process much easier. Last year, the final results for an acclamation vote came in at 5:40 a.m.—more than 10 hours after polls closed.

Barnett, ArtSci ’09 and an ASUS senator, said the change is also intended to increase voter turnout.

“We really wanted to tackle the problem of student engagement in elections,” Barnett said. “We recognized that this was probably an easier way to run an election than paper voting.”

Barnett said the ASUS election committee met with COMPSA President Tim Ginn to discuss the possibility of implementing electronic voting. IT Services has also played a large role in the planning process.

Barnett said the process is overseen by the ASUS Judicial Committee and needs approval from ASUS Assembly, the Arts and Science faculty office and Queen’s IT Services.

IT Services’ approval is still pending.

“It’s in their security environment now and they’re having some final tests,” Barnett said, adding that they should have their answer by Wednesday.

He said he’s confident ITS will approve the system.

“It has passed every security test,” he said. “They’re just finalizing all the security features, making sure they’re working.”

If IT Services doesn’t approve the system, ASUS will use the same voting process the AMS is using.

“If they say no, we’ll go back to paper voting. But the system will come back for next year with modifications.”

In the past, voters must have had their student cards validated to vote. This year, there will be a laptop at every polling station and students will punch in their Queen’s e-mail IDs to register.

Students will also be able to vote from their computers at home, Barnett said.

“It’s quite possible to vote between episodes of Seinfeld.”

There will be links to the voting page—which won’t become active until voting day—from the ASUS website and Facebook.

Students will still have to go to the polls to vote for AMS elections.

Barnett said there have been very few challenges in setting up the program, but it’s essential all the information put into the system be kept confidential.

Barnett said although there are more than 8,000 students in Arts and Science, the system is simple to use and the chance of it crashing is very low.

“I’m very optimistic,” he said. “We’re gearing up for a great success.”

At the AMS Assembly meeting last night, AMS President Kingsley Chak said the AMS looked into online voting in 2004 but decided against it.

He said it’s something next year’s AMS should consider.

Both Queen’s Commerce Society and COMPSA have used online voting in past elections. The upcoming election will mark the third time COMPSA has used an online voting system.

Melissa Trezise, COMPSA vice-president (internal), said online voting has gone well in the past.

“Everything seemed to work perfectly,” she said. “You were only able to log in once; you were only able to vote once.”

Trezise said the program counts the ballots and is run a few times to make sure it’s counting correctly.

Only three COMPSA executive members have access to the program account, including Ginn.

Trezise said online voting has increased voter turnout. In the fall there was a by-election for the vice-president (external) position and voter turnout was 33 per cent, she said.

“It worked really well. … It’s a really good program.”

—With files from Gloria Er-Chua

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