SGA elections hit snag

For the second time in less than two years, glitches in an online voting system have adversely affected the outcome of the Student Government Association elections.

While reports of the latest round of voting system failure began to surface as early as Sept. 13 – the first day of the latest SGA elections – the three-day election continued as planned.

On the night of Sept. 15, rather than releasing the results, SGA issued a statement saying the elections were “currently under review by a group of computer programming specialists.”

According to the statement, the SGA election committee would release the results of the fall elections at 9 a.m., Sept. 20.

As of press time, no results had been announced and SGA officials offered no further comment on the situation.

This fall’s election marked the first time since Spring 2003 that SGA has attempted to use an online voting system. In those elections, the results in the presidential race were declared “null and void” when it was revealed several students were unable to log into the voting system.

In the Spring 2003 case, a follow-up election using paper ballots was ordered.

Stephen Lecheler, a junior computer science major who provided the source code for the voting system, said the latest problems arose from flaws in the database that SGA used. He said certain undergraduate students were not flagged as either an undergraduate or graduate student in the classification field of the database.

According to Lecheler’s estimates, the mix-up affected no more than five students, but candidate Khaled El Rafie, a senior biology major, said the problem was more widespread.

“The frustrating thing was that when I would try to get people to vote for me, they would log on and be unable to vote,” El Rafie said. “I’m sure it affected the turnout because few people would bother to go back and try and vote after being unable to.”

Another flaw in the system required SGA to tally the votes manually after polls closed, which defeated what was supposed to be a benefit of the online system.

Lecheler said the fault for the database lies in the hands of Student Information Services, Records and Information Resources.

“This election has been a very, very long battle,” Lecheler said.

University Registrar Karen Jarrell said her office had never received a request from SGA with regard to accessing the student database. Therefore, she said, she did not know what data was provided or the format that the data was provided in.

Although previous senate elections have drawn criticism for their lack of competition and flawed online voting programs, SGA president Laura Rashedi said she hoped that the fall elections would succeed where previous elections had failed.

With 18 freshmen and nine sophomores vying for the seven seats available to each class, Rashedi had predicted a higher voter turnout from the underclassmen, particularly the freshmen. She also expressed hope that the timing of a Sept.15 “Rock the Vote” registration drive for the November election would help the turnout for the SGA election.

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