Online election specifics released

With ballots for the upcoming Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU) election moving online, questions have been raised as to why changes to how elections are run, which were suggested in past years, have not been adopted.
More details have emerged about the transition to online voting, which WLUSU has planned for February’s election.

At the Nov. 26 board of directors meeting, a contract was approved with the university’s Information Technology Services (ITS) that will see the union pay $16,425 for the development of the system, as well as an annual support fee of $2,625.

One feature notably absent from the system is the inclusion of a ranked ballot system in place of the traditional first-past-the-post system.

In 2008, a motion was passed by WLUSU’s board of directors to adopt a ranked ballot system when online voting would eventually be put into practice.

This motion would bind future boards to either accept the proposed system or defeat it by a two-thirds majority vote.

“The idea was if we were going to go to online voting, something new on its own already, it would be the perfect time to introduce the new system of voting as well, in this case a ranked ballot,” 2008-09 board chair Asif Bacchus explained, adding that online elections would have been a reality that year were it not for an extensive redesign of the WLUSU website which took place at the same time.

“The [08-09] board was very interested in moving online. The decision was made to say ‘let’s authorize it now’ so that at any time in the future when they sort out contract issues and we have money and can do everything, it doesn’t have to go back to the board,” Bacchus said.

Current board chair Kyle Hocking said that the elections policy review committee this year never considered ranked-balloting. “We haven’t even discussed it,” he said, adding that he had never heard of the motion passed by the previous board.

“I think it was greatly irresponsible for a board to pass such a broad motion which they had no intention of acting on and bound future boards to something that may not be feasible or desirable,” Hocking said, noting that ranked balloting “provides unnecessary complexity to the voting process.”

“Because we were unaware of that motion I don’t think it necessarily needs to come back [before the board] for this election, but probably future elections,” he added.

Bacchus justified his support of ranked balloting, which he said creates a more representative system because voters are able to rank their choices and a second-choice candidate may receive enough share of the vote to win. “A second choice made by a larger proportion of the population is better than a first choice made by a population with one set of interests,” he said.

Bacchus explained protocol in a situation of the board not being informed or following through on a previous motion. “Ideally it would have been followed, but it’s also a situation where you have yearly turnover,” he said. “Technically what should happen is the board should call this decision back in.”

“A lot of students and even sitting directors don’t get this, but the board can make a decision for ten years down the road, 20 years, it doesn’t matter,” Bacchus added. “When a decision is made isn’t as important as why it was made and as long as that reasoning hasn’t changed, a board should respect a decision of a board before it.”

“If they have a reason to reconsider, they need to look at the reasons why the board passed it in the first place and find a flaw in that reason.”

Election 2011:

This February’s elections will be held over the course of two days.

Student information and votes will be stored on two separate internet databases to prevent voters identities.

Since any computer can now be considered a polling station, banning campaigning on election days is being considered.

In order to help students make an informed choice, when they log in to vote, candidate profiles will be available on the voting site.

Students will have 45 minutes to vote once they log in.

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