CSA Considers Online Voting for Next Election

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Written by Scott Gilbert

The CSA board meeting of Wednesday of this week discussed several issues, the main one being the recommendation to bring online voting to CSA elections. The recommendation was made by the Communications Commissioner as a result of a report compiled by the “Online Elections Committee”, a committee commissioned by the CSA to explore the issue of online voting.

Since the current executive took office, discussions have been taking place regarding the possibility of bringing CSA elections to the Internet and allowing votes to be cast online. Some concerns related to the possibility that people might be able to hack into the system, as well as who has access to the information, what to do in the event of technical failure, where the system would be hosted, and which login IDs would have permission to vote. The Online Elections Committee heard a presentation by a company called Student Voice.

The benefits of the system would be that it would save the CSA money ($4000 or more per year), remove the need for paper ballots, and return results faster. It would also remove the potential for human error in the counting process.

One concern was that online balloting would differentiate the CSA elections from the federal, provincial and municipal process; the idea being that filling out a paper ballot is the same in all other Canadian elections and therefore represents a good practice. Studies were mentioned that indicate if someone votes once in an election then they are very likely to vote again later in life, and that the paper ballot process is an example of how to vote in Canadian government elections. Others at the meeting disagreed on some of these points and noted that Elections Canada is also considering moving to electronic voting at some point in the future.

Naturally there are some concerns related to the protection of private information because a considerable amount of personal information might have to be incorporated into any voting system. Others raised the concern of the potential for system failure and the difficulties of coordinating a contingency plan in time of this happened due to the printing of ballots and hiring of polling clerks is a time consuming process. There was also discussion that “special interest groups” might take the time to investigate and exploit flaws in the system and unfairly influence the elections, while others said we needed to have trust in the student body.

Another concern is that students could walk around with a laptop and ask other students for their login to cast more votes for a certain candidate, or pay them for their login, which, theoretically, could be used to vote. Something similar to this happened at York University in a previous election that used online voting. External Commissioner John Coombs commented that the system used at York has several flaws and is different than the one proposed here. It was further noted that most students are unlikely to provide such information since it can be used to access their webmail and webadvisor accounts.

The report of the Online Elections Committee was accepted, which was only for information and does not include any actions. At a future meeting notice of motion will likely be brought forward to implement the recommendations of the committee, implement them with modifications, or reject the proposal.

Aside from online voting, there was a short discussion about the safety of CSA club offices on the second floor of the UC resulting from the recent hate crimes. It was proposed that the CSA commission a safety audit of the second floor offices, install telephones in the offices and consider the further possibility of installing emergency “panic” buttons as well.

Academic Commissioner Becky Wallace also brought forward an “Ethical Purchasing Policy” for all CSA services and operations. The policy would require the CSA to purchase, wherever possible, products that are fair trade certified and come from producers that employ sustainable technology. This policy passed by a two-thirds majority and is now in effect. All CSA policies and by-laws can be found on the CSA’s website

At the end of the meeting the board passed a resolution to bring the CSA under "executive empowerment". This means that the CSA executive will operate without the oversight of their board until the next meeting (which will happen mid-January). During this time the CSA executive must operate within CSA by-laws and polcies, and cannot ammend, add or delete them. It also cannot spend more than $5000 of unbudgeted money.

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  1. Posted by: Dave on Nov 30, 2006 @ 9:14am

    I am encouraged that the CSA will be saving $4000+/year. However, I would only be happy about this if these funds were returned to the students in the form of a CSA student fee reduction.

  2. Posted by: Mike on Nov 30, 2006 @ 11:12am

    I thin kthat the electronic voting is an excellent idea. This is how voting was conducted for student government of at least one college on campus this fall. By adding it as course on WebCT could provide more security that people are worried about. I think that the idea to return a whole quarter to all the undergrad students is..... well, ridiculous. This money could be alotted to PDR budget lines or something of the sort to ensure that services and support of students continue to be a priority of the CSA.

  3. Posted by: on Nov 30, 2006 @ 12:49pm

    Can I have my quarter to go to ensuring that Becky Wallace actually receives my emails asking for advocacy with a shit TA? I like how the one time I decided to give the CSA a fair chance and ask them for the most basic function of their role, something failed. Absolutely useless, then you bitch and moan why nobody loves the CSA. Voice of 17 000 students my ass.

  4. Posted by: on Nov 30, 2006 @ 1:50pm

    Hi Alex,
    I'm really sorry to hear that you felt like you were ignored. I can honestly say I never received your e-mail. I just did an e-mail search through my inbox to make sure it wasn't an e-mail that fell through the cracks and nothing came up with your name.
    I have done over 24 advocacy cases this semester, it takes up the majority of my time, and this is the part of the job that is most important to me. I am truly sorry I never got your e-mail. Please contact me (my email is listed above) as I would like to talk to you about this and find out if something can still be done or, at the very least, where the problem occurred so it won't happen again.
    Becky Wallace

    [email protected]
    (519) 824-4120 ext.56742

  5. Posted by: Jason W on Dec 2, 2006 @ 9:02pm

    methinks electronic voting would be better

  6. Posted by: x on Dec 4, 2006 @ 6:09pm

    we do not need a refund of $4000
    why not just lower the amount collected by $4000
    theres an idea, rather than increasing the execs pay and lobbying for reduced tuition like the exec did last year, why not reduce CSA fees to prove students are ppor and dont want to pay so much

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