For the second year in a row, ballot software problems complicated GPSA elections.
Seventy-six of 1,235 student votes were deemed ineligible and were discarded, because the link on the GPSA website allowed anyone with a NetID to participate in this year’s election, including faculty, staff and undergraduates. Only graduate and professional students in degree-granting programs can vote.
Early on, the GPSA Elections Committee discovered bugs with this year’s electronic ballot system, said Matthew Rush, chair of the elections committee.
“During the testing of the elections ballot, we ran into a problem with the plug it uses in order to restrict voters to a list of allowable voters that we give them was broken,” he said. “We went ahead and recognized that the system was flawed and allowed the election to be conducted.”
The website plug that restricts ineligible students from voting also experienced problems last year, and 180 eligible voters were left off the list of eligible voters. Those students could not vote online and had to be contacted individually and invited to vote.
After it discovered bugs in the system this year, IT contacted Opinio, the software company used for the electronic elections. The two determined they weren’t going to be able fix the problem by the time of the elections, Rush said.
Opinio and IT presented the elections committee with options, one that would restrict voting to invited students, but Rush said the committee decided against that option, because some eligible students might not be invited to vote.
“We would supply e-mail addresses with the NetIDs of allowed students, and they would send e-mails to those students with a link that directly connected them to the ballot,” he said. “We decided against that, because the link possibly wouldn’t get to some students.”
Another option was to leave the link accessible to anyone with a NetID and conduct the election solely from that link, Rush said, but the committee decided to use a combination of the two alternatives.
The link on the GPSA website remained open to anyone with a NetID, but e-mails with links were sent only to eligible graduate and professional students.
Anyone with a NetID could vote in this year’s election, but IT checked NetIDs for eligibility after students voted, Rush said.
“IT identified those that had voted and sent an e-mail to everybody they found wasn’t eligible that informed them that their vote would be removed at the end of the election,” he said. “It also told them about the appeals process they could go through if they disagreed.”
Almost 90 percent of the ineligible voters were non-degree graduate students, Rush said.
Newly appointed GPSA President Katie Richardson said because of system issues the candidates were informed of the ballot process used.
“It would have been a good idea if the elections committee had provided that information to all GPSA members for sake of greater transparency,” she said. “The committee did what they could so that the elections were fair and represented the interests of GPSA. The fact of the matter is, non-degree students are not GPSA members.”
Rush said the discarded votes would not have changed election results.
“That is one thing we did make sure of when certifying the election,” he said. “It was nowhere near Katie’s 216-vote margin. Those votes definitely wouldn’t have altered the results.”
System issues aside, Richardson said GPSA’s chosen election method is effective.
“The fact that GPSA holds electronic online voting increases access to government,” she said. “I would like to see ASUNM adopt the same process. Students with jobs, families and other responsibilities can really have opportunity to vote.”
Rush said the committee is satisfied with the process it decided on.
“We are happy that there was such a high voter turnout,” he said. “Of the 1,235 students that cast a ballot, only 419 used the link through e-mail. Our recommendation would be to continue providing a link in the future. We do think it was a very effective method to make people able to actually participate.”
~Elizabeth Cleary contributed to this report.