CASA to Fully Implement Online Voting
Upcoming Elections to Take Full Advantage of New System
After discussing the initiative last year, and proactively implementing the voting system in a limited capacity, the Commerce and Administration Students’ Association will be receiving votes via MyConcordia this year.
The application is called “My Vote,” and it will be implemented through Concordia’s IT organization, Instructional and Information Technology Services, will be used to vote. It’s currently used by staff and administration to answer surveys.
“We’ve had a historically low turnout with voting,” Rory Blaisdell, one of the founders of the online voting initiative, said.
The initiative was approved by CASA’s Board of Directors, its highest decision making body, on Nov. 7, 2017
According to former CASA Vice President and of the founders of the online voting initiative, Shaumia Suntharalingam, there are a variety of benefits to the new system.
“Along with the voter turn out that’s going to increase, there’s a lot of cost saving benefits as well,” she said. “[It saves on] having to pay voting clerks, and on paper. It saves lots of resources for associations who run on tight budgets.”
One of the key advantages to online voting is accessibility.
“It allows for students who may not have the ability to be at school during our polling periods to vote and opens it to students who happen to be abroad,” Rudy Grow, the president of CASA said.
Suntharalingam hopes that online voting will give voices to students who normally don’t get the chance to come to campus and vote, boosting student engagement.
Some of the risks associated with online voting were addressed and considered when the initiative was voted in. When it was discussed last year, one of the major concerns was voter fraud. Grow said that a new system can introduce new risks.
Despite the concerns, this year’s Board of Directors went forward with the project.
Suntharalingam explained that there are more risks associated with voter fraud by using paper ballots, since there is no online identity verification. Third parties hired by IITS will handle any issues of unauthorized voting.
The ability to vote online will also allow for polling options to be automatically based on each student’s unique program of study and department.
“Usually student voting is voting for president, [and] vice-president, but you’re also voting for your representative group,” Blaisdell said. “You can ask students referendum questions.”
CASA has already received positive feedback about the online voting system. Students who used the My Vote in the last elections in February 2017 reported that they wouldn’t have been able to vote without the online voting in place.
“We’ve got really good feedback from students that it helped, since they could vote,” Blaisdell said. “It was more accessible.”
Online Voting Within Other Student Associations
The Concordia Student Union conducted a study in 2014 on the benefits and risks associated with online voting.
“Though the study did initially examine the potential for increased participation in elections when moved online, the risks were highly concerning,” Leyla Sutherland, Student Life Coordinator for the CSU said. “The security of online voting platforms, the high potential for either mis-recording votes, denying electors or other means of electoral fraud.”
“And the overall concern that electoral fraud becomes difficult or impossible to trace,” she added.
According to Sutherland, there are certain benefits, like increased voter turnout and better accessibility, but there were too many questions regarding the qualify of the turnout, corruption or rigging.
The CSU have currently have no plans to implement any form of online voting in the future, due to the associated risks. Instead, they hope to focus on other ways of encouraging students to vote.
“We would like to work to increase participation in the elections through increased outreach, better support for electoral staff and more cohesive training for individuals responsible for the elections,” Sutherland explained.