Issues arise with ASUAF election online voting

Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star Reporter
Dec. 6, 2011

On Nov. 29 and 30, the UAF student government held fall semester elections. Voting stations were available at numerous locations around campus, as well as online.

During the course of the election, issues with the online voting system became apparent. The first major difference between past student elections and this fall lay in the choice of host. This semester, online voting for the Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (ASUAF) student government was hosted on Survey Monkey. In the past, elections have been held directly on the ASUAF website.

The choice to host the election on Survey Monkey was due to timing and the lack of a web administrator, said Anne Williamson, office manager for ASUAF.

“We didn’t have anybody who had access to the [ASUAF] site,” she said, adding that the site is not supported by Office of Information Technology (OIT).

In the past, OIT helped ASUAF oversee the online voting, ASUAF Vice President Dillon Ball said. OIT was not available to help this semester, he said.

“It was not the most appropriate forum,” Williamson said of Survey Monkey, but added that the time crunch was “down to the wire.” Williamson is familiar with Survey Monkey and purchased an upgraded subscription to the site in order ensure a secure connection for voters, she said.

Additionally, a single voter could potentially vote multiple times. In order to have their votes count, students must enter their student ID number followed by their birthday. However, when voting on the Survey Monkey site, all a student needed was an eight digit number that started with “3” and a false birthday.

There was also the potential to vote multiple times when using paper ballots, Williamson said. There was no real-time verification. “Nothing at the booth to verify, we do it all after,” she said.

“There were a lot of bogus ballots [this semester],” Williamson said. In handling the issue of multiple voters, the ASUAF elections board voted to count only the last vote a student made.

In order to verify a ballot, Williamson crosschecks the student ID number listed with those on a list of active UAF students provided by the Polar Express office. Williamson is the only individual at ASUAF who is allowed to verify the ID numbers.

Online voting also had a delayed start. Online polls are supposed to open at 12:01 a.m., according to the ASUAF Elections Manual. In reality, online voting was not made available until 12:15 a.m. While the polls were open 15 minutes later then they should have been, they were kept open an additional 15 minutes. “Nobody voted between 12:00 and 12:15 (on the last night),” Williamson said.

“It was definitely a learning experience for next year’s Elections Board,” Williamson said. “Next year’s [election] will definitely be better.”

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