The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Senate returns to paper ballots

Student Senate gave a vote of no-confidence Monday to using electronic ballots in next month’s elections.

The governing body rejected a resolution to collect votes online in the upcoming race, choosing to use old-fashioned paper ballots instead.

Opponents of the online election cited a pair of recent online votes that were snared by technological

problems, including last spring’s senate race.

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“This was an absolute disaster for Senate public relations last year,” Sen. Aaron Brewster said of online voting. “An absolute disaster.”

Last year’s online senate race saw presidential-vice presidential candidates Tim Lauer and Meghan Charlier claim a 24-vote victory over Emily Mattheisen and Caroline Wee, according to an April 17, 2008, article in The Spectator.

But the race was plagued by technical difficulties that allowed faculty and staff to vote and prevented some students from voting, according to the same article, which also reported that Senate later identified three illegitimate votes.

More concerns were raised when The Spectator reported that then-Sen. Jacob Boer said he had clicked “submit” on at least 30 online ballots, and that some senators had set up computers to allow students to vote and were present as students voted.

This November an online referendum seeking students’ approval to raise segregated fees also ran into technical trouble, according to an article in The Spectator.

Nearly 2,000 students were initially unable to respond to the referendum, and some alumni were given the link to the survey by mistake, according to the story.

Supporters of an online election this year said Monday that many of the earlier problems have been dealt with and that a new online survey program, Qualtrics, is more reliable than the university’s previous WebSurvey program.

Supporters also said Qualtrics’ client list – which, according to the company’s Web site, includes Apple, Cargill, the Federal Reserve Board, Forbes, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and the World Health Organization, among other big names – was reason enough to consider using the program in the election.

“I really believe this Qualtrics survey will work,” said Sen. Aaron Wingad, who voted in support of an online ballot. “If we want to get all of the responses from all the student body, this is the way to go.”

But opponents said the software was too new and largely untested at the university. Senate put Qualtrics through a trial run earlier this semester when it sent out a bus transit survey to students, said Senate Parliamentarian Abou Amara, but some senators said that test wasn’t enough to dispel concerns about an online vote.

“An adequate test would be homecoming elections or something along that line,” said Senate Chief of Staff and Treasurer Michael Umhoefer. Other senators also said they thought more testing needed to be done on Qualtrics.

According to a document provided by the Senate office, the last time Senate used paper ballots was during the spring 2007 election, when about 6.3 percent of the student population cast votes. During last year’s online election, about 26 percent of students voted.

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Senate returns to paper ballots