CSA Considers Online Voting for Next Election
Wednesday, November 29, 20066 Comments
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.