Due to a technical error at the Division of Information Technology, the University of Wisconsin lost 1,800 online ballots cast in the 2003 Associated Students of Madison fall election. ASM’s independent election commission met Monday night to schedule a new election.
“The result was supposed to be out on Monday evening,” said Marissa Courey, chair of the Student Election Commissioners.
The problem was discovered after online polls closed Thursday, Oct. 16. All the ballots must be recast to capture fair and accurate results. The online voting system successfully captured votes from only approximately 200 ballots for which only write-in votes were possible.
Elizabeth Conklin, manager of DoIT’s Internal Applications group, which maintains the election software said DoIT is responsible for the incident.
“DoIT accepts full and complete responsibility for this unfortunate incident,” she said. “The ballots were lost due to a failure on our part to completely reset the election system after it was successfully tested ahead of the election. We’ve taken steps to ensure that this will not happen again.”
UW senior Jeffrey Goh agreed that it is DoIT’s responsibility.
“This is a technical problem that no one can predict,” he said. “Maybe it is better to use traditional voting system, as it is safer.”
Freshman Marcus Shiu shares the same opinion.
He said if ASM fully trusted DoIT with the job, the error is DoIT’s fault because the department is in charge of the online poll.
“If they jointly monitored the operation of the site, then they both have responsibilities,” Shiu said.
“They should redo the election,” he said. “The ASM should respect everyone that had their say and spent their time to vote.”
Although there are technical problems with the election, the freshman voter turnout has reached a record number in recent years.
Brad Vogel, SEC vice chair, said they are happy to see the results.
“We haven’t seen this amount of participation since 1999,” he said.
Courey explained, “This year, we have seen the largest freshman turnout at all ASM events. It’s really great to see how eager they are to get involved and participate in the student government. They’re a really dedicated and productive class; everyone at ASM is really excited to see what they will accomplish.”
Dean of Students Luoluo Hong agreed. She said the high level of interest in the election encouraged her.
“The turnout for this election — more than 2,000 students — was the largest ever for a fall ASM election,” she says. “That’s really encouraging. We’re all disappointed there was a problem, but we need students to turn out again to make those votes count.”
The ASM election was held Oct. 14 to 16 to elect representatives to Student Council and the Student Services Finance Committee and to decide two referenda.
DoIT first developed the ASM election system in 1999, and online voting has made voting and administering the election more efficient and accessible. Recent enhancements included voter authorization by NetID, randomization of ballot listings to ensure fairness, and improvements to eligibility screening for advanced placement students.