Photos by Catherine Goce
By Donna Nadeem
Following of last year’s particularly low McMaster Students Union presidential voter turnout rate and suspicions that not all students received an email allowing them to vote, the MSU elections department has been making key changes to its email voting system.
In particular, MSU elections department investigated any technical issues with the MSU’s voting system Simply Voting. Ultimately, they found out that any students who marked MSU’s election emails as junk mail did not receive future emails from the MSU due to Canadian anti-spam legislation.
The elections department not only runs the elections for the MSU but for many clubs and faculty societies within the McMaster community. For instance, their services also facilitate the elections for four major faculty societies: the McMaster Science Society, McMaster Engineering Society, the McMaster Humanities Society and the McMaster Social Science Society.
As such, Simply Voting plays a significant role in facilitating voting in McMaster’s student elections.
This year, the elections department worked with Simply Voting to introduce Mac ID authentication into the voting system. This means that students will no longer need just their email to gain access to their ballot. Using the link to msumcmaster.ca/vote, students can now also use their McMaster login credentials to vote. Ballots remain secret and identifiable information is not collected.
“The new system was tested this past summer and during First Year Council Election which just finished, and no issues were reported,” said Uwais Patel, the MSU elections department chief returning officer.
Conveniently, the integration of Mac ID means that students can access their ballot without receiving an email.
“We will continue to schedule initial invitations to vote and periodic reminders to those who have not voted yet,” said Patel. “Moving forward, the email blasts sent should ensure maximum deliverability, but will be complemented with the promotion of our new voting link. Regardless, students will be able to access their ballot easily,” said Patel.
Moving to a MAC ID authentication system is expected to make voting more accessible and the process of voting more reliable. Voters are no longer reliant on email messages generated by Simply Voting to login.
This year, there was an unprecedented number of candidates running in the FYC elections, with 12 simultaneous elections occurring during the campaigning and polling periods. This was the first test for the new voting method, no issues with which were reported.
Voter turnout for the 2018 MSU FYC chair and vice chair election was only 21.6 per cent, with 1,373 students voting this year. Turnout for residence chair elections sat at 31.8 per cent, with 665 students voting. However, this marked a notable rise from last year’s 14.6 per cent FYC voter turnout.
The feedback received revealed that students appreciated being able to use the msumcmaster.ca/vote link to promote voting themselves.
On the FYC ballot, an optional question asked students for feedback regarding the work of the department. In the coming weeks, the MSU elections department will be carefully looking though those comments for more insight into potential future service enhancements.
“Email is simply one communication tool to drive voters to the voting link where the login to a ballot will be located. Therefore, spam filters will not have any impact on the election process,” said Patel.
However, students still need to click the link in the first place. In addition, the number of students who voted in the FYC election was quite low compared to the total first year student population. With these technological changes to the voting system, only future elections will tell if voter turnout will make a comeback in the winter presidential race.