July 20, 2019

Electronic system to change future of Faculty Senate voting

Ralph Olliges, Faculty Senate president, sent out 222 paper ballots for the faculty senate at-large
elections on March 5. Information Technology (IT) is working with Faculty Senate to develop an electronic voting system for future faculty elections.

IT created an electronic ballot, which was tested by members of Faculty Senate last fall. Olliges
presented the electronic voting system at faculty assembly on Feb. 14. Faculty present at the meeting requested two changes be made to the electronic elections.

Faculty wanted to login using their connections username and password in addition to the current CARS faculty ID and birth date login. Secondly, they requested that all login information and their votes be encrypted during transmission.

Shifen Qiang, IT web services programmer, said the changes aren’t difficult to implement, but it takes time.

“Program it, test it, it’s very important that you take time,” Qiang said. “If you do not have enough testing, you never know what could happen.”

Qiang has been developing the electronic ballot for the faculty since summer 2011. Olliges said he approached the Faculty Development Center and IT with the project. He said the goal is to make faculty voting electronic. Olliges said he is concerned with that goal, but it is IT’s decision of how to implement it with the faculty’s requirements.

“My care is trying to make it electronic,” Olliges said. “My concern is the integrity of the election.”

Olliges said he hopes faculty will be able to use the electronic system this year, but it’s too soon to tell. If voting isn’t completely electronic this spring, it will be for the spring 2013 elections, Olliges said.

The idea for electronic voting came from a faculty assembly last spring. Faculty members were scheduled to vote on an issue while several other faculty members would be out of town at a conference. Email voting was suggested.

The issue of privacy with email and paper ballots was discussed last
spring. Paper ballots are returned to the Faculty Senate office in an envelope, which includes the voter’s name.
Amanda Rosen, assistant professor in the history, politics and international relations department, was one of the first to suggest an electronic voting system last spring.

“We should figure out a system and use it, and it needs to be a system that lets every member of the faculty assembly vote, and to do so with measures of protection for their privacy,” Rosen said. “And so, hopefully, that’s what the electronic voting system will allow us to do.”

The Webster Staff Alliance (WSA) has also approached IT
about an electronic voting system. Qiang hasn’t begun work on that project yet, but suspects WSA’s electronic voting requirements will be similar to Faculty Senate’s requirements.

“User’s requirement is always top priority,” Qiang said. Qiang updated the electronic
voting system for Student Government Association (SGA) approximately five years ago.
Qiang said the interface — the front end — of the faculty’s electronic voting system looks similar
to SGA’s, but the back end is different. Unlike SGA’s electronic ballot, the faculty’s ballot will be encrypted.
Faculty Senate will continue to use paper ballots and email notifications until the updates are made to the electronic voting system.

“Our goal is to make it totally electronic and I say we’ve made a huge step toward it,” Olliges said. “We will meet our goal as soon as we can.

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