E-voting: A history of errors

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Online, electronic voting was introduced to LUSU elections in Michaelmas Term 2009. In its first outing, in the JCR and Part Time Officer – now Cross Campus Officers – elections the turnout increased by 30% on the previous year.

Until this point Students’ Union elections had been held by paper ballot. But a motion passed by Union Council in Summer Term of 2009 meant that the long anticipated move to an online voting system could finally be achieved.

Though MiVoice, the system used by LUSU to host the votes, was initially slow in the Michaelmass elections – with some pages taking up to 10 minutes to load – the voting process soon sped up. The effects were still felt, however, with the position of Academic Council Chair, which was first on the list of Part Time Officers, receiving almost twice the amount of votes as those lower down the list.

Other problems included people not receiving their voter codes, or the emails containing them being accidentally deleted. These were felt to be problems that could be resolved by the next election, due to take place in Week Eight, Lent Term 2010.

When it came round to the elections for the 2010-2011 Full Time Officers in Lent Term, however, there was a problem with the distribution of the unique voter codes.

Some students in Graduate College did not receive their codes, meaning that another email had to be sent out with the codes. Due to human error, different codes were provided in the second set of emails which effectively gave some Graduate College students the opportunity to vote twice.

Once this mistake had been realised, a third email was sent cancelling the Graduate College vote from the Thursday, and reopening it from 6pm on Thursday until 6pm on Friday. This meant, however, that 97 Graduate votes had to be discarded.

When it came to counting the votes for the positions of Vice President (Academic) and Vice President (Equality, Welfare and Diversity), it was found that the margins were so close there could be no way of guaranteeing that the 97 votes would not have influenced the result. In the end the Vice President (EWD) competition was won with a margin of just over 100. The Vice President (Academic) position was won by just one vote.

A re-election was announced for the following Tuesday, but the work of many people involved was called into question, including then Chair of Elections (Chief Returning Officer), Samantha Johnson. Many candidates felt she was not capable of handling the situation and that her actions prior to the election had been the cause of the error.

Throughout all the failures with elections, those involved insisted that they were not down to the e-voting system itself – something which was claimed once more in the 2010 Summer Term elections.

These elections, though largely just to replace people leaving positions and elect new Sports Representatives within the colleges, also suffered from problems. Due to another human error with the unique voter codes, those received by Fylde and Cartmel colleges did not work on the MiVoice system.

As a result the elections in those colleges were postponed until the following week, and Samantha Johnson resigned from her role as Chief Returning Officer, leaving then VP (Academic) Danny Ovens to act in her stead.

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