RWS wins by 21 votes in third recount

Victoria Hall ballots were counted twice in first two AMS election counts

Team Archer-Collins-Howard await election results as campaign manager Alvin Tedjo takes the call.
Team Archer-Collins-Howard await election results as campaign manager Alvin Tedjo takes the call.
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The same envelope of votes was entered twice in a tallying computer program in the first two counts of AMS election results late Wednesday night, resulting in an error the election team didn’t catch until they did a manual recount late Thursday night, AMS Chief Electoral Officer Connor Langford said.

Recount results announced early Thursday morning indicated Team Radcliffe-Wang-St. Clair won by one vote in the second round of preferential voting.

A manual recount, which finished early Friday morning, revealed Team RWS won by 21 votes.

Chief Returning Officer Joanna Adams said there were 5,580 ballots cast in total, 660 of which were spoiled.

Adams said the final voter turnout remained the same—41.3 per cent—but the final spread of numbers between Team RWS and Team Archer-Collins-Howard, which came in second in the first recount, was different.

The only thing the Vic Hall number changed was the number of seconds allotted to ACH and RWS,” she said.

“It didn’t change the data entry, it just changed the total difference of round two.”

Langford said the error occurred when the 308 ballots from the Victoria Hall polling station were entered twice.

“A person from IT goes through and merges all of the ballot boxes to count them all at the same time,” he said. “It was just one year where there was a miscount.”

On Thursday morning, Team ACH filed a request for a manual recount to be done without the help of a computer program, as dictated by the elections policy manual.

Langford said the manual data-entry error is no indication the program used during the ballot-counting process is flawed.

“The election results that have been produced by using this program, all those since 2005 when preferential balloting was instituted, have all been correct and without error,” he said.

“To me, this indicates the necessity of a recount and shows that AMS policy is absolutely correct in ensuring it is done manually if the results are ever questioned.”

The mistake wouldn’t have been immediately noticed if the manual recount hadn’t occurred, but would have been caught eventually, Adams said.

“We do a really close inspection after the election. We have a 72-hour window for an appeal, so we try to investigate the total numbers,” she said.

“We would have probably noticed it within a few days or hours, but not as soon if we hadn’t done the recount.”

Adams said the elections team has various checks and balances to ensure the results are correct, such as making sure StuCons record student numbers at polling stations and counting how many ballots are given out at each station per day.

“We go through polling station by polling station to see which ones got the highest turnouts,” she said.

“We would have noticed because if we looked at those student number sign-in sheets that the StuCons record at every ballot station, the numbers on the computer would have been different from those numbers.”

Former AMS presidential candidate Holly Archer said she’s glad ACH appealed the results of the first count.

“A lot happens very quickly, and I think that that’s why you have recounts,” she said. “I’m glad we questioned it, and [the elections team] did the right thing.” Archer said ACH anticipated the possibility of a recount before the results came out.

“It was something you kind of know going into it in advance,” she said. “People do put too much faith in computers, and sometimes the manual way of doing it is more precise.”

AMS President-elect Talia Radcliffe said she found the error disconcerting.

“It ended up being very lucky that the end results were the same, but it’s only really because of the recount on the other team’s behalf that it was recounted in the first place,” she said. “It’s pure luck, which is really unfortunate and sketchy.”

Radcliffe said she hopes future elections won’t be so close, allowing for a larger margin of error.

“In a sense because they’ve set the precedent of error, at the very least we know the extra care will be taken in years to come.” Radcliffe said although she wants to ensure extra care is taken for next year’s election, it’s not something the executive can account for in the hiring process.

“You can’t say ‘I’m going to hire people that don’t make mistakes.’ It’s very serious, but it’s not something you can account for in a hiring process,” she said, adding that she hopes future election teams will take this potential for error into account.

“It will ensure that extra care and scrutiny will be done in the future.”

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