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Online voting produces 10 times the turnout

May 18, 2007
By Natalia Lavric and Breanne Smith

There seemed to be a reminder of elections everywhere you went on campus Thursday, even on the escalators of Baker University Center. 

"Hey, Pete," a voice called from the third floor, "did you vote yet?"

But in this, the first electronic vote for undergraduate and graduate student senate elections, voters were hardly visible. The four polling sites around campus -- each a basic set-up of a computer and poll workers -- had recorded few votes by mid-morning, one poll worker said.

Instead, students were at home and all over campus voting from personal computers via a secure Web site. 

And vote they did. While some 400 students voted in last year's elections, 4,606 cast ballots this year.

"Having online elections really contributed to turnout," said Janelle Nichols, chair of Student Senate Board of Elections. "It was quick, results were easy to count and we were able to have results out in about an hour."

Because of the number of issues on the ballot and the hotly contested student senate presidential race, students also had abundant information about the election, said Eric Sandy, a freshman journalism major who manned a polling table outside Baker University Center's fourth floor. This may have contributed to the turnout.

"There's been more than enough information about the candidates and their views," said Sandy, who attended candidate debates and also cited The Post's coverage of the election as a source that helped shape his decisions.

But what was on students' minds as they voted throughout the day?

Sophomore marketing major Jen Haviland spent part of her day researching the issues.  "I'm voting for (President Roderick) McDavis," she said of Issue 4, which asked students whether or not they had confidence in his leadership. "I think that if you're part of a large group like this, it's important to support the administration."

Tommy Greene, a first-year broadcast news major, supported TOGA candidates and voted no confidence in McDavis. "I think they'll work well with the administration," Greene said of the victorious TOGA candidates, "and that's important to me."

Senior Jed Reifer, a hearing, speech and language science major, supported Will Klatt and Matt Bell, both independent candidates, who had a strong campaign presence on campus. "People I saw a lot of flyers for (were my choices)," he said.

The new electronic system was not without its problems. Some residence halls could not elect representatives because of a glitch that classified them as part of North and College greens even though they are more commonly considered parts of East and West greens. Residents of Bromley, Bryan, Voight and Scott Quad Halls will receive another opportunity to cast votes for East Green and West Green representatives. 

Students also cast some votes before the polls technically opened at 8 a.m., Nichols said. These votes were not included in the final count, and students were notified and given the opportunity to recast their ballots.


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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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