With elections for the Student Association Executive Board right around the corner, a new electronic voting system will replace standard paper ballots.
The new system makes use of computers on-site at polling stations. Students cannot access the voting program from personal computers in their residencies.
Voting will be nearly the same as before, except students will now vote using computers instead of filling out ballots by hand, according to Nick Fondacaro, chairman of the Elections Committee and a junior majoring in political science.
The SA will use netbooks that are used by orientation advisers during summer sessions to conduct the polling.
The computers will not be connected to a network, which will prevent anyone from tapping into the computers and altering results, according to James Grippe, the designer of the voting system program and a member of the Elections Committee.
The new system will require pollsters to enter a password for each new voter but polling can only begin or end with two other passwords known only to Fondacaro and Grippe.
“After the program closes, the votes will be put into a password-protected zip file just like a locked ballot box,” said Grippe, a sophomore majoring in computer science. “The computers will be locked up in UPD just like the old ballot boxes.”
Votes will be counted one at a time on a projector screen in a public room.
“In the past, we printed out hundreds of ballots for each community and locked those votes in ballot boxes,” Fondacaro said. “This system is almost the same except we’ll be voting on computers.”
Fondacaro said the new system will alleviate problems that affected the old election procedure.
“There are always discrepancies between the amount of signatures signed and the amount of ballots actually cast,” Fondacaro said. “In the past, someone could take a ballot without signing in, or signed in and left without inserting a ballot. This system would remove these issues and make it more difficult to stuff ballot boxes or manipulate numbers.”
Polling stations will be located in student’s respective dining halls designated for on-campus students and in the New University Union for all off-campus students, Fondacaro said. The Elections Committee is still deciding where the polling stations for Hillside and Susquehanna Communities will be.
Grippe said the program will streamline the voting process and prevent possible complications.
“I probably put in over 20 hours of work over the past couple of weeks setting this up between testing and development,” Grippe said. “The overall goal is to decrease issues with voter fraud, increase efficiency and set a foundation for future elections.”
Mark Soriano, a current candidate for SA president and a former president of College-in-the-Woods, expressed his support for the change.
“I think the change is good,” said Soriano, a junior majoring in history. “When I was president of CIW we instituted online voting. We used a Blackboard email, so it was a little different, but it was really effective. It saved time because we didn’t have to count them and cuts down on inconsistencies because there weren’t paper ballots to lose track of.”
The SA elections will take place on March 26 and 27 — the official list of candidates will be made available next Wednesday.