The flaws in E-Voting must be rectified if our elections are to regain credibility

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In the cold light of day, everything seems that little more disappointing. People not quite as you initially thought, music that grows tiresome as the days roll by, reactions cooling as the temperature lowers; some things that seemed the genuine article reveal themselves as the frauds they really are.

It is with this that I arrive to the subject of e-voting, a policy that I myself voted for when the decision passed through to Union Council and a method of voting that I was secure and happy with after its first usage in the Michaelmas Term elections. I felt that it would revolutionise our elections and increase student participation, allowing for a more legitimate democracy in the Students’ Union. I felt that the system that was eventually drawn up and the restrictions placed upon it were both fair and valid.

However, from Lent Term’s Full Time Executive Officer elections, it is clear that we have been premature in our praise for electronic voting and that there are serious flaws in the elections mechanism that we have established; problems we must contend with if we are to continue to use the system in the future. Firstly, we should be highly critical of any process that does not allow for the recollection of votes; it was the failure to retrieve the votes made by the 97 voters in Graduate College that ensured that a re-election was required. Was it truly worth the stress to the candidates forced to re-run? I doubt that a system of retrieval in extreme circumstances (such as the one in the last election) is either too hard to introduce or sufficiently problematic for the vast majority of students on campus.

It is simply laughable that we were unable to regain the information from within the e-voting framework. It is also ridiculous that the system was undone by a human error. Whilst people do make mistakes, it is astonishing that there was no back-up plan or failsafe to ensure that information was retrievable and errors could be rectified without the election process descending in to farce. Surely it is a pre-requisite of any mechanism for delivering elections that we have methods to ensure that the recent situation should never have been allowed to happen? It is a seriously short-sighted approach to not factor in any possibility of human error whilst devising the e-voting system and it is this particular mistake that should be blamed for this failure of LUSU’s democratic operation on campus.

How can we rectify these errors? What can be done to prevent a repeat of these recent, seemingly improbable events? Firstly, we must look to ensure that college votes can be separated, allowing for errors of this kind, if they are to be repeated, to lessen in their impact on candidates if a re-election is chosen. Had the election only been re-run in graduate college, we may have had far less controversy and a quicker time in getting the re-run results in order to inaugurate the new full-time officers. This would also preserve the ability to know how the candidates did in different sections of campus; which colleges voted for whom. This has been lost in the recent election to the detriment of the elections on campus.

Secondly, we should install the ability to track votes made by individuals, only to be used if the system we have employed again fails to the degree that it did this time. It is vital that we prepare for the kind of situation we have faced this year; the transition from using a paper-based system has thrown up new instances which we must prepare for if e-voting is to continue as our electoral process. We have to be able to rectify human-errors and must begin to prepare for the possibility of these circumstances.

What happened in the full-time officer elections was unfortunate. Whilst pointing the blame at various individuals has been the reaction of some, it is both inaccurate and unjust to do so. The election saw a higher turnout and for this the election team must be congratulated. We cannot let their recent accomplishments be marred by allowing an imperfect system to continue without severe scrutiny and readjustment.