Voting validation delays election results

Results stalled as the CRO and CEO awaited raw voting data from VoteNet

The AMS elections team will provide next year’s Chief Electoral and Chief Returning Officers (CEO and CRO) with a strong transition to avoid the same mistakes from happening again, the current CEO told the Journal.

The results of the 2013 AMS election were released Thursday morning at approximately 11:20 a.m., just over 15 hours after the voting period ended.

“Last year was the first year that preferential balloting was used and so moving forward we’re going to look at how it can be used more effectively,” AMS Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Caileigh Simpson said.

She took over the post after CEO Scott Mason took leave to campaign for ASUS presidency. Simpson was formerly a PHEKSA representative on AMS Assembly. The delay in releasing the results occurred in part due to the system of tabulating votes used by VoteNet, the service used to conduct elections.

According to a statement released on the AMS website, VoteNet selects winners based on “ballot points” for votes involving preferential ballots, rather than raw votes, as is AMS policy. Simpson said a solution to the problem was discovered at 8:30 p.m. which involved obtaining the raw data from VoteNet.

“At that point we were waiting for VoteNet to provide us with this raw data and the problem was that the file was too big, so we needed a compressed file that had to come from their end,” Simpson said.

She noted that the same system of preferential balloting was used in last year’s election, but the file was not as large and therefore could be downloaded the same night. Not a single election, including faculty society, undergraduate student trustee and residence society, was uncontested this year, and the additional teams on the ballot resulted in the larger file.

Simpson said she wasn’t told to look out for such a problem.

“I wasn’t transitioned on it,” she said.

While the Undergraduate Student Trustee election and AMS executive election results were delayed by the AMS until this morning, faculty and residence societies were left to determine for themselves how to proceed.

The winter referendum didn’t involve preferential balloting, but those results were delayed as well.

Only the Engineering Society (EngSoc) and Residence Society (ResSoc) were affected as they were the only societies to have more than two teams in the running. EngSoc released their results around midnight Wednesday night, while ResSoc waited until approximately 6:30 on Thursday evening.

Greg McKellar, AMS information officer, said the release of election results often goes past midnight. Delays of this length or longer are not uncommon either, he noted. The most recent election to go “well into the next day” took place in 2008, when the then-paper ballots underwent two recounts due to the results being too close to call.

“In 2004, it was delayed because of a flood of complaints at the last minute,” McKellar said.

In that case, the issue stemmed from allegations of campaign violations against one of the teams, and the situation was resolved when the team in question was disqualified.

Prior to that, another lengthy delay occurred in 1999 after a team was disqualified because they had purchased a cell phone which they hadn’t expensed. Their disqualification was eventually overturned.

“If you were as much as a single penny over the spending limit, it was an automatic disqualification,” McKellar said, adding that restrictions are no longer as strict.

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