The Student Association made a decision to transition from printed ballots to a new electronic voting system for its elections later this month. While SA reps claim the switch will solve previous accuracy problems, like students signing to submit a ballot but never actually doing so — or vice versa — we feel that there are bigger fish to fry, mainly in the form of increasing voter turnout.
Now, this isn’t to say this new system isn’t achieving anything at all. According to SA Elections Chair Nick Fondacaro, there were noticeable issues with accuracy in the past, and with certain positions decided by just a handful of votes last year, any step toward a more accurate, honest system is a step forward.
But while keeping elections true and honest is important, it’s a step that only minimally benefits student voters. If the new system works, great. It will increase efficiency and accuracy and will preserve the integrity of SA elections going forward. But, with the move, we feel that the SA still failed to address the much bigger issue of voter turnout.
Voter accuracy is all well and good, but if you simply can’t get voters to vote, it’s all for naught. Voter turnout won’t significantly spike until we have an effective means of off-site, online voting. We understand the risks — voter fraud could be a problem with an on-site ballot. Developing a fool-proof means of preventing voter fraud in such a system is, in a word, difficult.
But when only 1,575 students out of more than 11,000 undergraduates (last year’s E-Board election numbers, according to a Pipe Dream report) come out to vote, a measly 14.3 percent by our estimation, the SA clearly needs to get more students involved. We’re not saying online ballots will bring every single student out to vote, but it would make involvement easier, and the convenience aspect itself could increase voter turnout by leaps and bounds.
Some off-campus residents don’t want to go to campus just to cast a vote, and the SA shouldn’t make them.
Students, on the whole, should have some level of interest in Student Association elections, and simply installing an off-site voting system won’t spark a dormant, apathetic student body. But making campus-democratic participation easier is a good goal for the SA. The switch to electronic ballots fixes some quick bugs, but we think the system still needs a reboot.