The TCU presidential election concluded yesterday after more than a 12-hour delay in the release of results due to some technical problems experienced by the TCU Election Commission (ECOM). Students voting off-campus (via wireless networks other than tuftswireless) had difficulties submitting their votes, and students were required to use a temporary username and password to log into to VoteNet.
ECOM eventually decided to call the election in favor of Robert Joseph, explaining that neither of the issues were significant enough to drastically affect the election’s outcome. The delay, along with a low voter turnout, nonetheless cast doubt on the election process itself.
The commission conducted TCU Senate elections two weeks ago, seemingly preparing itself sufficiently for a larger-turnout presidential election. However, the transition from Webcenter to iSIS took place in between the Senate and presidential elections, creating an entirely new system for ECOM to work with on election day.
The lack of sufficient communication between ECOM and Tech Services definitely impaired the electoral process for Tufts students and exemplifies a lack of institutional support from the university for the undergraduate student government. The university should ensure its students feel like they are being represented in their student government, something that is difficult to maintain if they are discouraged from voting.
The need to use a temporary username and password in order to login to VoteNet created an additional barrier that likely turned some students away from voting. In an election that historically suffers from low turnout, even one extra step in the voting process can discourage students from participating. Last year’s TCU presidential election had a 57.5 percent voter turnout rate a far cry from this year’s turnout rate of 32.5 percent.
Despite these unfortunate obstacles, Tufts undergraduates still need to take more ownership of their student government and get involved in their most important elections. The TCU Senate’s primary responsibility is to allocate student activities funds, and students should play a more active role in deciding where their club funding is going.
ECOM should work with the administration in the next year to ensure that voter turnout is higher in the coming years by making certain all of the technical problems are straightened out prior to the election and planning for possible server errors in advance. By alleviating these technical problems and eliminating the temporary username and password required by VoteNet, ECOM can restore confidence in its election procedures, and ensure free and fair elections in the future.