E-Voting fails to catch student imagination

THE STUDENTS’ UNION have suffered early problems with their new online voting system, with eight of the first nine UGM proposals not reaching the quoracy.

E-voting has been introduced on to the YUSU website for voting on Union General Meetings, to encourage students to vote on issues affecting the University. The need for such changes is due to poor attendance at UGM meetings. It has been suggested that this is due to a lack of publicity and reluctance from many second and third year students who live off campus to travel back on to campus in the evenings to place their vote.

So far, since the scheme was launched at the beginning of the current term, only the budget proposal has been passed. Chris Wiggin, the Students’ Union Communications Officer, is the man who has received the most criticism for this, with one anonymous student on the Ask YUSU website questioning whether “the incompetent manner” in which he publicised the E-voting concept to the student community has been the reason for its failure.

However, Nat Thwaites-McGowan, the Student Union Services Officer, has defended Wiggin’s role in the scheme, stating that “Chris did really well” and accused people of “looking for problems” for the sake of it rather than focussing on the positives.

Thwaites-McGowan stressed the success of the E-voting scheme so far, saying that he was “very pleased” with the first term of the concept and that he hoped it would “lead to more people voting”.

Micky Armstrong, the President of the SU, was also keen to avoid criticism of the plans. When asked whether he was concerned that, despite the fact that the new scheme now offers students much more time to vote, the quorates are still not being met. He stressed that the “budget was passed convincingly”, though he also mentioned that “there are no plans to use the scheme in SU elections”.

This seems to be a point of contention between Thwaites-McGowan and Armstrong, with the Services Officer hoping to introduce E-voting in next year’s elections. He admitted that “Micky is concerned” about furthering the scheme at present.

In a recent meeting, members of the SU Executive Committee also expressed concerns about the viability of the scheme. Several SU representatives questioned whether online voting would reduce enthusiasm for elections and make the process less personal. Other problems which were addressed at the meeting regard the security of the York computing network. Many first years have failed to change their original passwords, leading to the potential risk of hacking into accounts. This could allow non-students to influence the results. The need to use campus networked computers or a complex web proxy to vote was also highlighted as a major problem due to the unwillingness of many second and third year students to travel on to campus to cast their vote

BY Daniel Whitehead

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