One CSU member explains the advantages of being able to vote online
Full disclosure: I work for the Vote YES to Online Voting campaign. I am chair of the Concordia Student Union elections and participation committee. Today, I am writing to tell you why I am for online voting at Concordia.
To save money
For the last four elections, the CSU has spent an average of $36,000. Last year, $53,000 was spent on an election that only saw 1,424 votes cast. That’s approximately four per cent of the student population. Each year, the money spent on elections goes toward paying for ballots, polling clerks, deputy electoral officers, ballot counters, the chief electoral officer and security. Last year, the CSU spent $14,000 on security alone. The amount of money spent on student elections at Concordia is excessive given the number of people who actually vote. A lot of money would be saved if voting was done online. One external company estimated that using their system would cost $7,500. Based on the CSU’s 2018 General Elections CEO Report, this would have saved the union nearly $22,000, which could have been reinvested in new electoral practices, such as new election positions and advertising.
To improve security
Although some people have concerns about the security of online voting, it’s important to recognize that the current CSU election procedure is not secure either. In October, ballot boxes from the CSU’s 2017 by-election were left unattended in the hallway on the fourth floor of the Hall building. Those boxes contained people’s names, their ballots and the ballot ID associated with them. This information could be used to identify who each person voted for. It’s also important to consider that security is about risk management. Before selecting a company to administer online voting, the CSU can do its due diligence by asking questions about security measures and ensuring certain standards are met.
To be more sustainable
Currently, the CSU uses paper ballots in their elections. The union’s sustainability policy defines sustainability as “the process and outcome of achieving social justice, economic equality and environmental health by reducing our economic footprint and empowering communities.” Switching to online voting would allow the CSU to further reduce its economic footprint and contribute to environmental health. The less paper used, the better.
To increase accessibility
As is, the CSU’s voting system is not accessible to people who have disabilities, such as hearing or vision impairments. Some online voting companies, such as the Montreal-based Simply Voting, offer accessibility features and are regularly audited by the Bureau of Internet Accessibility. By working with an online voting company, the CSU could make its elections inclusive for all Concordia students.
To increase convenience
The truth is, online voting is convenient. I live off island. It normally takes me an hour and a half to get to school by public transportation. The winter weather only makes this worse. A long commute, disruptions to public transit or bad weather can all contribute to a student’s decision to stay home and miss the opportunity to vote. Although the CSU voting period lasts three days, it’s not uncommon for students to wait until the last minute. Time is of the essence and casting a ballot online would be faster and easier.
At the end of the day, we all want what’s best for the CSU. Online voting has the potential to get more people to participate in student elections. I have seen a lot of apathy toward voting at Concordia. We need to do something to fix that, and this is a start. Let’s change how we do things at the CSU by saying “yes” to online voting from Nov. 27 to 29.
Graphic by @spooky_soda