CSU Still Needs Student Consent To Implement Online Voting

Referendum Question Excluded Students Granting Access To Personal Information

  • The CSU raised concerns about the use of student information through online voting. File Photo Nikolas Litzenberger.

The Concordia Student Union’s General Coordinator Sophie Hough-Martin said she’s worried of the possibility of legal action since their January by-election didn’t specify that the implementation of online voting would require access to students’ personal information.

This Article has been updated.

Under the Quebec Act Respecting the Accreditation and Financing of Students’ Associations, the CSU has a legal obligation to ask for students’ permission before accessing their student number, which they said they’ll need to run online voting.

The January by-elections were used through a random code generator with identification numbers and passwords to students. “We have access to a student list, given to us by the administration, which gives names, faculty, and other contact info to verify currently registered students,” said Hough-Martin

“We don’t have access to student numbers now, but we’re legally allowed [to use them] because we have a confidentiality clause in our contract with Simply Voting to give the information for the purpose of the elections,” she continued.

She also highlighted that the referendum question only asked if students were open to the “implication of online voting during elections,” not the implementation.

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“There is also a question of legalities and security that comes with this that we unearthed while implementing online voting for the by-elections, which means we technically need have students’ consent to have access to their students’ numbers,” said Hough-Martin.

Although 96 per cent of Concordia students voted in favour of “supporting” online voting, on Wednesday the CSU council discussed creating a more specific referendum question to better obtain students consent for online voting.

Some CSU councillors were unhappy with the thought of withholding online voting for future CSU elections.

“I think this is really about what people want so I don’t think we should be stopping this,” said councillor Patrick Quinn, who chaired the elections and participations committee during January’s referendum,.

“To drag this out any more than it already has been it would be bureaucratic nonsense,” said Chris Kalafatidis, a councillor, and president of the Political Science Student Association. “I think the people of Concordia have clearly spoken and online voting is obviously more legitimate than anyone in this room.”

The CSU has already bought a one-year subscription for Simply Voting, the system that was used for the online elections. The subscription costs a little over $9,200 for each year.

“No matter what happens to this we have already paid for the subscription for Simply Voting so technically, the money has to be spent well,” said Finance Coordinator John Hutton.

Although online voting was implemented and will be implemented in future CSU elections, councillor Margot Berner clarified that the CSU has a legal obligation to not get sued.

“This is not a way to push back the implementation of online voting, it was implemented, it will be implemented in the next election we just need to make sure that we are doing the students justice by not taking up [students’] personal information illegally,” said Berner.

The CSU motioned to keep using online voting until their May council meeting, and will also be revisiting online voting after the Chief Electoral Officer Mohammed Alsagheer submits his report of the January 2018 by-elections.

The previous version of this article stated that the CSU used student ID’s for their January 2018 by-elections, which was not accurate. Sophie Hough-Martin later clarified that the CSU used random identification numbers and passwords for students to use to be able to vote. This article has since been updated.

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