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CSU referendum on online voting

by Jad Abukasm November 20, 2018
CSU referendum on online voting

Committee re-evaluating the pros and cons of electronic voting

The CSU will be asking its students whether the union should change its voting method from polling stations to online electronic voting in its upcoming referendum.

Electronic voting is an online platform for students to vote from their computers. Many universities across Canada have switched to electronic voting in the past two decades, a change they qualified as inevitable, according to Tre Mansdoerfer, president of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU).

“Currently, the most up-to-date research that the CSU relies on is from 2014 and recommends that online voting not be implemented,” wrote Michele Sandiford, CSU student life coordinator, in an email to The Concordian. “The evaluation raises concerns such as election fraud, technical difficulties, and confidentiality, and presents evidence that shows that voter turnout is most significantly impacted by the investment of voters in electoral issues and high-profile candidates/referendum questions.”

For many years, the CSU refused to implement electronic voting, but recently, the student union formed an elections and participation committee to re-evaluate the pros and cons of the method.

“We recently inquired into the security of online voting to our IT Director, who explained online voting is almost impossible to secure and presents significant risks of impersonation,” said Sandiford. This is a risk the CSU is not willing to take.

Mansdoerfer thinks otherwise. McGill has been using online voting for the past two decades. “Every student has an assigned code that is authenticated, so that it’s secure enough regarding personal info,” said Mansdoerfer. “People can’t double vote since you have to log in with your personal information. It’s different from your [student] ID so that there’s nothing affiliated with anything else.”

Since 2003, the overall lowest voting rate at McGill was at 17.5 per cent, according to Mansdoerfer. Concordia, however, had a voter turnout of about 4 per cent during the last general elections, a drastically lower rate than its neighbouring university.

“If you are really trying to represent your institution or your student body, you should be using online as much as you can,” said Mansdoerfer. “If you are gonna have people come in person to vote, you are taking away from anybody that isn’t from Montreal, or far away so that they have to commute, and limiting their ability to participate.”

McGill’s transition from conventional to electronic voting was made step-by-step, first by using both polling stations as well as online voting. This resulted in a 1 per cent participation rate for polling stations and about 20 per cent for online voting.

“I think this really speaks for itself in terms of advantage,” said Mansdoerfer. “It’s the modern 21st century voting method, and we should try to help people vote as much as we can. Polling stations would have made sense pre-Internet without having all the other abilities to vote, but not anymore.”

Yesterday, the CSU started an official referendum campaign where the voting method will be thoroughly discussed. “It’s surprising to me this is still a conversation at some schools, but I hope the conversation right now is to [adopt] online voting and not to remain the same,” said Mansdoerfer. “If it is, then I’m happy with that. If it’s not, I have major concerns with what’s going on.”

Graphic by @spooky_soda.

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