ASCMC Online Voting System Experiences Glitches

Claremont McKenna College students who voted in the 2013 Executive Board elections Feb. 26 found flaws with both the online voting system and the results posted online by the Forum, the official student publication of CMC.

For the first time, students cast votes electronically using the website The Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC) released the election results at 10:43 p.m. However, there was a glitch in the ballot distribution for the first-year class.

The problems began with the first batch of e-mails sent at 2 a.m. the night before. These initial ballots “ended up having some incorrect information involved,” which resulted in a second round of e-mails sent to those who received the faulty links, wrote Aseem Chipalkatti CM ’15, administrator of the Forum‘s online voting system, in a comment section of the Forum‘s elections result page. This glitch allowed some voters to have multiple ballot links.

According to Chipalkatti, the system’s inbuilt security features only recorded the most recent vote from each individual voter. Chipalkatti’s comment was posted at 12:23 a.m., nearly two hours after the initial batch of results was posted.

The Forum also published an error in the Class of 2016 President percentages. The initial posting broke down the percentages as follows: Iris Liu CM ’16, 46.3 percent; Richard Mancuso CM ’16, 53.7 percent; and Ben Turner CM ’16, 23.6 percent. Students immediately noticed the faulty math, as the percentages added up to an impossible 123.6 percent.

Then, at about 11:30 p.m., the Forum posted their first edit, dropping Mancuso’s percentile to 23.7 percent, while Turner’s increased to 30 percent, and Liu remained at 46.3 percent. The ASCMC’s constitution states a candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the vote in order to win the election. If this does not occur, the first- and second-place candidates have a run-off election, using the ballot’s “second choice” option in order to determine the vote.

The Forum’s page showed the run-off results, in which Liu was victorious. However, the results showed that it was Mancuso facing Liu, instead of Turner. This resulted in the final edit of the night. The Forum reversed the percentages of Mancuso and Turner, giving Mancuso 30.0 percent and placing him in the run-off election with Liu.

The final, confirmed results showed Liu defeating Mancuso in the run-off 63.5 percent to 36.5 percent, giving Liu the election.

When asked about the election problems, Chipalkatti said that it was nothing more than a “slight typo when it was uploaded to the Forum.” He also said that, contrary to the rumors that fraud took place, the confusion was due to human error. Chipalkatti added that “it was a one-time thing, and frankly, it’s a non-issue.”

First-year Vice President Will Su CM ’16 said that the misprints definitely caused some confusion.

“Hopefully in the future the numbers and names are checked before the official release. Considering this is the first time ASCMC has used online voting, voters were obviously dubious of all these misprints and glitches,” Su wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “Hopefully in the future, mistakes like these are clarified ASAP and are as transparent as possible.”

Apart from Liu, the other winners were Gavin Landgraf CM ’14 as ASCMC President, Maddie Hall CM ’14 as ASCMC Vice President, Mark Blumenfeld CM ’14 as ASCMC Social Affairs Council Chair, Ben Tillotson CM ’15 as ASCMC Dorm Affairs Council Chair, Jessica Jin CM ’16 as ASCMC Student Life Chair, Laura Epstein CM ’14 as the Class of 2014 President, and Moe Abdul-Rahim CM ’15 as the Class of 2015 President.

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