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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Union plans to upgrade voting system

Published: September 22, 2006
Section: News

The Student Union is planning to replace the campus election system, according to Union officials, one week after the elections for the senator for the Class of 2010 and the campus Treasurer were disrupted by technical difficulties.

This decision, Union Secretary Alex Braver 09 said, was made at the end of last semester. Last March, The Hoot reported that graduated seniors were able to vote in the Spring 06 election.

[Library and Technology Services (LTS)] and the Union had previously attempted to patch the system, which to some degree was successful, said Braver, recalling the Winter 06 election which barred Mid-Years from voting. It was determined earlier this year, however, that patching the system could not be a long-term solution.

Braver added that the main flaw in the elections system was the Peoplesoft softwares inability to recognize combinations of grade designations. So freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior separately are fine, but when you mark all of them at the same time as population criteria for an election, you have a problem. This flaw, Braver said, disrupted last weeks elections, causing a 90-minute delay and the erasure and replacement of the two affected races.

Braver explained that while the decision to find a new system for elections was made last spring, it was impossible to create an entirely new system in time for the fall elections, due to the newly-elected Unions concerns with implementing the Student Activities Fund (SAF) proposal passed last semester.

When asked why restructuring the elections process would require so much time to implement, Braver responded I'm not sure how LTS functions over the summer [in terms of] how much staff is around [or] what their other tasks are over the summer but I know from the Union side that Union officials hadn't really had a chance to draw up a full and complete list of all the specific things we wanted to fix, or a list of features we wanted to include in a new system.

In another email to The Hoot, Braver also added that because there are no pre-made election software programs on the market, the code has to be hand-written, and custom-built for our types of elections. This would require UNet support to successfully graft the program onto Peoplesoft, the Universitys student data program, Braver said. He was unable to give a specific timetable for the new systems implementation, but said that he would be meeting with LTS next week to discuss possible ways the election system might be changed.

When asked by The Hoot about possible disenfranchisement in last weeks elections, Braver explained that while his e-mail sent Thursday read that the treasurer election had [its] vote tallies erased, implying that some votes could have been lost, the reality was that nobody was able to access the election, and therefore no one was able to vote. So, in simple terms, I delayed the election an hour and a half.

In regards to the Class of 2010 senator election, Braver said that while there was a 20 minute window during which some votes could have been erased, the elections still left students enfranchised: I know that the candidates themselves contacted me, and then did a good job informing their supporters of what happened in conjunction with my email [,] [and] the margins of victory in that race were large enough to reasonably put aside fears of the few people who didnt hear about the change swinging the election.

The results of the Class of 2010 senator election left Rajiv Ramakrishnan 10 with 211 votes, Jenna Brofsky 10 with 165 votes, Miriam von Guggenberg 10 with 119 votes, and Ryan McElhaney 10 with 74 votes.