Election farce

By Еvan Osentоn

I could have voted 10 times in the Students’ Union election. Did I? I’m not telling. But you should be aware that I–for that matter, any student–could have voted as many times as there are polling stations.

If it’s Thursday or Friday when you read this, you still have the opportunity to vote 10 times. Am I telling you to do this? No, but you should be aware that you can if you want. No one will stop you, and it’s likely no one will ever find out. Oh, they might… but the list of those who voted has to be checked manually. Why weren’t scantrons (think: multiple choice tests) used?

Naturally, this is a problem. SU elections can and probably have been won at this university by candidates with the right combination of friends and questionable scruples.

The corruptible nature of this year’s election was totally preventable. Eight years ago, in a stunt yet unrivalled by his successors, Gauntlet co-Editor Bob Barnetson voted six times in the SU election. Barnetson had the foresight to record his act on film and the gumption to publish the photos in the following week’s Gauntlet. The result was predictable. The SU was livid, Barnetson lost his SU priviliges and was banned from MacEwan Hall. If only there was space this week to run the photo of SU General Manager Kelly Hutton literally booting Barnetson out the building…

The good news was that, as a result of Barnetson’s stunt, the SU cleaned up the election. They moved to a method of voting where students were registered in an electronic database as they voted and casted ballots by touching a computer screen.

By most accounts, the new system worked well. The opportunity to corrupt the election (by voting 10 times, by stealing ballots and reproducing them) was eliminated, as was the opportunity to spoil ballots.

The next year, the SU moved back to the process Barnetson abused. Electronic voting was "expensive", and the company that provided the electronic voting equipment was "nowhere to be found".

Six corrupt elections later, here we are.

The SU could have implemented an electronic voting system this year. It’s more important for the election process to be democratic than it is for the SU to save a couple of dollars. If this system was too expensive, why didn’t the SU take even the most basic precautions to prevent electoral fraud? Why weren’t students eligible to vote at only one polling station, perhaps designated along faculty lines (ie. Engineers vote in the Engineering building). This would prevent someone from casting multiple ballots. The obvious downside is a lower voter turnout, but is that really such a terrible thing compared to what could happen now?

Surely, the winning candidates in this year’s election must see the process they were elected by is ripe for exploitation. In the interest of preventing further abuse of the system, they should make changing the voting system their number-one post-election priority.

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