When some USF students attempted to cast their online votes during the Student Government (SG) Senate midterm election this week, they received an error message that prevented them from doing so.
The election, which occurred Tuesday and Wednesday and aims to fill the Senate’s 27 vacant seats, allowed students to vote from any computer.
Graduate adviser for SG Advising, Training and Operations Alyssa Thomas said she doesn’t know what caused the problem.
“We’re working on it is all that I can say,” she said. “We’re doing our best to figure it out.”
During the spring semester’s general election, specific IP addresses at on-campus polling stations were designated for use during voting.
Students’ U-numbers were distributed to Votenet, the online voting software that is also used in the midterm election, and the company found that 255 were duplicates, causing a delay in the general run-off election between current SG President Cesar Hernandez and his opponent, Andrew Cohen, who was SG director of University and Community Affairs.
Thomas, who is a graduate student studying education, has provided oversight for the election since Christopher Leddy, a senior majoring in political science and history, was elected Supervisor of Elections on Sept. 28 after the midterm election was scheduled Aug. 25.
According to SG statutes, “If an election is called prior to the formation of the Election Rules Commission, the full time staff of the Advising, Training and Operations Bureau shall assume the responsibilities of the ERC.”
Gary Manka, SG adviser, said SG is working with Information Technology (IT) and Votenet officials to determine what went wrong.
“IT services gives us every student’s Net ID because there are no limitations on the midterms … There (are) no polling stations,” he said. “There are no answers right now.”
As a precaution, SG advisers requested a report from Votenet following the election to ensure that no votes were duplicated, stalling the announcement of the results until Tuesday night, Manka said.
“We will have certification next week, Oct. 18,” he said. “We do that with every election now because of the issues we’ve had in previous elections. This is the best way to do that. It takes us a little while to certify, but it’s accurate and precise.”
According to SG statutes, “The Student Government Advising, Training and Operations Bureau shall be responsible for certification of the election within 24 hours of the close of the election.”
“We don’t consider it the close of election until all the facts are in,” Manka said.
Leddy said that before giving official results, Votenet will have to run a report of all votes so the ERC can ensure there are no voting discrepancies.
He said if an alternate voting software is found before the spring general election, he would consider employing it.
“We want to take every precaution that we can,” Leddy said. “We don’t want any issues like we did last year. Right now, Votenet is what we are using, and if we can find something better out there – our contract is up in January – we are just going to look at all our options before the general election.”
SG Senate President Jennifer Belmont said that because only 33 of the 60 Senate seats are currently filled, a midterm election was needed.
“In the general election, I believe we had eight to 10 empty seats,” she said. “People have been feeling that it’s not for them. I think a lot of people ran at the beginning because certain presidential tickets were running and they wanted to be part of Student Government if those tickets have won … It was nothing against Senate or how things are.”
She said 43 candidates are running.
“Having 33 seats is unacceptable,” Belmont said. “We should be at maximum capacity at the time they are elected.”
The College of Medicine will hold a separate election for senatorial candidates in two weeks because there were “some technical issues with their applications,” Belmont said.
The SG constitution states that to qualify for the ballot, potential senators “must be students in good academic standing, according to the University Code of Conduct, and may not be under disciplinary probation, suspension or expulsion.”