Staff Opinion April 6, 1998

Re-evaluate IUSA voting methods
What we think:
IUSA Election

IDS Editorial Staff

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Last week's IU Student Association's elections were plagued by allegations of voter fraud. In particular, the voting methods prescribed by the IUSA Election Code are inherently flawed, inviting such unethical tactics as listing, which is collecting person al information for the purposes of casting other people's votes, and multiple voting.

The IUSA Election Code allows for voting to occur via the World Wide Web from any Netscape-enabled computer. While the convenience of being able to cast one's vote electronically potentially convinces many otherwise apathetic students to voice their opini ons, it presents an easy opportunity for IUSA candidates to fraudulently cast ballots on behalf of other students.

Both major tickets, Orensten-Roman-Abrams-Schroder and Taha-Doty-Brodnax-Jenkins, allegedly participated in listing to obtain votes. Specifically, one document titled "How to Get the Vote Out in a Greek House" -- which was distributed to presidents of gre ek houses supporting ORAS -- explained a methodology for collecting greek house members' social security numbers, birthdates and telephone numbers, which is all the information necessary to cast electronic votes on their behalf. Listing is a violation of state and federal laws because it involves obtaining social security numbers for use in a fraudulent manner. In addition, it exemplifies the inherent flaw in allowing votes to be cast via the Web.

Worse yet, the alternative voting procedures are not much safer. The Election Code calls for "no less than three paper balloting sites." Although these sites are to be fully staffed, the polling staff has no method to prevent with any certainty a student from casting more than one vote. Presently, each polling site has a master list of students, and the polling staff check a student's identification before allowing them to vote. But these "master" lists are not coordinated with each other. Nothing short o f a manual matchup of ballots and students prevents a student from voting multiple times in the same election.

The result of these flawed voting methods is that no election outcome can be trusted. Even if a vote-winner is declared after the election, there is no way to ensure the votes have been legitimately cast. Thus, any ticket claiming victory to the IUSA elec tions has no mandate or verifiable majority by plurality. No ticket can rightfully be elected with these flawed voting methods.

Student apathy is no justification for allowing these methods to continue. Because electronic voting appears to be the wave of the future, reliable practices must be adopted to ensure listing cannot occur. A combination of the standard electronic voting a nd alternative voting booths can achieve this. Electronic "Netscape" voting should take place only at designated polling stations, where polling staff can verify the identity of all students who come to cast their votes. By marrying the convenience of ele ctronic voting with the reliability of polling staffs, a reliable, justifiable and nonfraudulent vote can occur with confidence.

Written by: Aaron Stevens, IDS Editorial Board.
1998 Indiana Daily Student