Alumni voted in elections

Last week alumni were sent e-ballots for the online AMS and ASUS fall votes.
Last week alumni were sent e-ballots for the online AMS and ASUS fall votes.
Photo: 

Blane McPhail no longer attends Queen’s, but he voted in last week’s online elections.

“I just voted for the guy with the coolest name. It was absolutely terrible, especially if my vote was the one to decide things,” McPhail said. “I was completely uninformed when I voted.”

On Oct. 25, some alumni and transfer students were sent e-ballots to their webmail accounts with active usernames and passwords.

This allowed alumni to cast a vote in the AMS referendum and rector election. It also allowed them to vote for an Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) representative.

McPhail, ArtSci ’11, convocated in June with a major in politics. He received the ASUS and AMS e-ballots last week to his webmail account.

McPhail is currently living in Toronto and said in addition to the e-ballots, he also regularly receives emails from the Queen’s political studies list serve.

He said when he received the ballot he initially thought nothing of it.

“I saw it and thought ‘That’s cool, maybe I’ll just vote. It’ll be a good way to stay in touch with my Queen’s roots,’ ” McPhail said.

“I don’t know if it’s appropriate for someone who’s outside of the school to be voting, even alumni,” he said, adding that as an alumnus, his view of the University’s needs are different than that of students.

“I want what’s best for the school but ultimately the representatives that you vote in are representing current students.”

At the end of last winter term, Lily Jeon transferred from Queen’s to enroll at Ryerson University. Last week she also received the AMS e-ballot to her webmail account.

“I think I get everything the rest of the Queen’s students receive, including monthly AMS newsletters and most recently vote ballots from both ASUS and the AMS,” Jeon, ArtSci ’13, told the Journal via email.

Currently she’s not enrolled in any courses at Queen’s and said she doesn’t owe any outstanding fees to the University.

Even though Jeon did receive the e-ballots and was able to log in with a valid username and password, she said she didn’t vote because she wasn’t informed enough to make a decision.

“I may not have voted but I shouldn’t have been given the opportunity to in the first place,” Jeon said. “Personally I sort of got a kick out of the fact that I am still receiving these sorts of emails ... It makes me feel like once a Queen’s student, always a Queen’s student.”

Voting for the AMS referendum and rector election took place on Oct. 25 and 26. AMS Commissioner of Internal Affairs Mark Preston said it’s possible that if an alumnus was considered a student by the Registrar’s assessment, the individual could have voted in the election.

The AMS’s voters list was provided by the Registrar’s Office.

“It’s certainly not something I thought would’ve happened and something the Registrar didn’t alert me to,” Preston, ArtSci ’11, said, adding that this year the Registrar’s list was comprehensive enough that the AMS was able to use it directly.

He said due to the large size of the list it’s difficult for him to identify students that shouldn’t be included.

“Outliers such as someone who has graduated, who hasn’t paid fees, or paid fees late, or something like that can sneak through,” Preston said. “A lot of it is taking what the Registrar’s compiled and accepting it.”

He said he has a meeting scheduled with the Registrar in November to find out more details about how the Office operates and that he’ll use it as an opportunity to discuss the voters list.

The Registrar’s Office sent an unsigned email to the Journal on Oct. 31.

It stated that in 2011, the University implemented a new student information system and that this was where the data for the voters list was taken from.

“There were no more than 25 discrepancies with respect to alumni still appearing as current students in the system,” the email stated.

“When this data was shared with the AMS, it was acknowledged that this year’s set of data may not be as accurate as it has been in the past, since the review and tidying up of student record anomalies had not yet taken place.”

Vote validity questioned

Glitches in the AMS’s election system have students concerned over the validity of their vote in last week’s rector election and fall referendum.

After voting in the election on Oct. 25, Stephen Kerner received an email from the AMS elections team reminding him that he hadn’t voted.

“I’m not sure if it’s actually true that my vote didn’t count or if it was a glitch,” Kerner, Sci ’14, said.

He received the email at 8 p.m. on Wednesday after the polls had closed.

“I’d like someone to check to see if I actually voted,” Kerner said, adding that because of midterms he didn’t have time to contact the AMS.

Kerner said two of his friends received the same email after voting.

“After I voted, it asked me to print out a receipt and I didn’t do it, I didn’t even think to,” Kerner said.

Other students received a different email from the AMS Elections Team in regards to voter eligibility.

“You’re not currently on the voter’s list. We’ve been experiencing issues with part-time students not being on the list sent to us by the Registrar, so that may be why,” stated the email, signed by Chief Returning Officer of the Elections Committee Eni Rukaj.

“There’s no way for us to check your student number — asking the Registrar would take too long, as I’m sure you understand.”

This email stated that in order for students to be put on the voter’s list, they needed to print off a verification of enrolment form from SOLUS and bring it to the Commissioner of Internal Affairs, Mark Preston, who could manually add students to the list.

Preston, ArtSci ’11, said he didn’t see anyone in person but he did receive emails from concerned voters.

He said considering the magnitude of the election, only a small proportion of the voters experienced problems.

“In two days we received well under a hundred emails about this, that’s a pretty small number of people,” Preston said.

He said he wasn’t aware that some students received emails telling them they hadn’t yet voted when they had already cast a ballot.

“It’s a feedback initiative system; if people don’t come to us and voice their concerns then we can’t really help them.”

The Commission of Internal Affairs conducts the elections. Preston said his staff relies on people with concerns to contact the Commission via Twitter, Facebook, the AMS website or email.

The election system uses VoteNet Solutions software which recognizes a unique username and generates the corresponding passwords. Preston said with this system there was no chance of voting twice.

He said if voters saw the receipt and confirmation page, it meant their vote was processed. VoteNet Solutions charges the AMS about 2.3 cents per email, he said, and therefore the reminders the AMS sends are done on the Queen’s server by the AMS.

The emails that Kerner and his friends received, Preston said, could have been an accidental overlap from merging mailing lists on Excel or a delay in the system due to the large volume of emails.

“It’s a very big strain on the Queen’s server and ITS doesn’t like us doing that,” Preston said. “There’s always some minor [problem] with the election because in no way is the internet a perfect system.”

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.