With last year's general election riddled with glitches and complaints, the Students' Union passed a new bylaw that will help them try, try again. That is, if they want to.
During a Students' Legislative Council meeting on Aug. 20, 11 councillors unanamously voted in favor of the On-Line Election Procedure. The bylaw outlines how on-line elections (where students vote over the Internet and on campus computer terminals) should be conducted. Previously, the Election Bylaw allowed an election to be run electronically, but was ambigious and offered no additional guidence. SU President Matt Stambaugh explained the new procedure gives the SU clear direction to work from.
"We didn't have a procedure outlining how we do on-line voting," said Stambaugh. "There are no big changes. We tried to clarify the Chief Returning Officer's job, and we had to deal with some issues like 'what's a voting station?'"
Last year's election began almost a day late due to a faulty security certificate needed to start the on-line voting server. When cro Jordanna Hennegan decided to extend voting by an extra day, candidates complained, and then-External Commisioner Duncan Wojtaszek brought a complaint to the review board to examine her decision.
Hennigan was exonerated and the new bylaw includes provisions to deal with voting delays by officially allowing the cro to extend voting by an extra day.
Other changes in the bylaw include the definition of a polling station. Last year some argued any computer served as a polling station.
However as the new bylaw applies to any "university-owned computer terminal or computer lab accessible to Active Members [of the Students' Union]," Academic Commisioner Gavin Preston suggests problems could be caused by other bylaws that prohibit campaign materials within 20 metres of polling stations.
"The thing is, where do you put stuff up then?" Preston said. "That's a lot of enforcement. How do you enforce that?"
Another issue raised at the meeting was whether or not websites were considered campaign materials, accessible from any polling station. While this issue was not addressed in the new bylaw, Stambaugh doesn't anticipate any large problems.
"The [SU] voting website won't have any links to campaign websites," explained Stambaugh. "People will still have to go to the posters [for the addresses], which are well regulated."
Despite these efforts, newly hired CRO Shuvaloy Majumdar said he might decide not to hold the winter general election on-line.
"[Before on-line voting would happen], they'd have to prove beyond a doubt it will work without problems, and they'd need to be crystal clear about how to address problems," Majumdar said, adding that he feels it is his decision. "I don't think SLC is in a position to say 'you have to do it as an on-line election.'"
While the upcoming October by-election will be conducted with paper ballots, Stambaugh says SLC has yet to decide whether or not the general election will be on-line.
"It will be SLC's decision in the end," said Stambaugh. "We're keeping our options open, and I'm confident Shuvaloy will do a good job if we decide to go on-line."