Voting system fixed for class office elections after possible ASB election tampering

March 14, 2019 — by Jeffrey Xu and Callia Yuan

A flaw in the school's online voting system that led to allegations of possible vote tampering in the ASB elections for 2019-20 was fixed in time for the class elections earlier this month.

On Friday, March 8, students who had been previously unable to vote during the ASB elections were happy to find that individualized links had been sent for class office voting. This time, there were no reported issues of students being unable to vote on 5-Star Students, the voting system used by the school for student government and homecoming royalty elections.

The issue of students’ account being used to vote was present with the ASB elections this year as well as class officer elections last year.

Some defeated ASB candidates and their friends had initially questioned the results amid reports that dozens of students who tried to vote in an online system couldn't do so because their accounts had already been used to cast a ballot.

Sophomore Katie Chen, who had lost her ASB election for treasurer but won her junior class officer election for vice president, thinks at least 40 potential voters were unable to cast their votes in the ASB election, and that the numbers could have made an impact on the final result. She also suspects some kind of tampering may have been involved.

While a similar issue occurred during last year’s class office elections, Leadership adviser Matthew Torrens said that he believes the voting problem for this year’s ASB elections was not the same issue as what may have occurred last year. Last spring, the suspicion was that students who had access to other students’ information through means such as the binders in the journalism room and the SHSTV room with student ID numbers and birthdays allegedly took advantage of the resources and commit voter fraud.

The birthday and ID number information was removed from the information in binders late last spring, which would have prevented the same issue from happening again. It was possible that student may have recorded the information somewhere, but Torrens confirmed that the IP addresses of the voters for this year’s ASB elections didn’t have a significant number of votes coming from a single IP address, and few anomalies were apparent in the voting patterns overall.

With the evidence he’s seen, Torrens thinks the voting glitches were most likely a systematic error due to the 5-Star software. And due to the strict timetable between ASB and class office elections, the Leadership class had been unable to schedule reelection and recover the lost votes.

One student who was unable to vote in the ASB election was junior Ranna Zahabi. After logging in and being unable to vote, she thought there was simply a glitch in the system. She soon realized, however, that many of her peers had the same issue and that there was a possibility that actual voter fraud was involved.

In the end, the ASB election resulted in junior George Bian as president, junior Jolyn Tran as vice president, sophomore Arnav Mangal as secretary, junior Rohan Rao as treasurer and sophomore Lauren Tan as the Board Representative.

For class office, the winners for the class of 2022 were: president Alexander Yang, vice president Derek Hsu, treasurer Nandini Desai and appointed representative Apurva Chakravarthy.

The winners for the class of 2021 were: president Cynthia Zhang, vice president Katie Chen, treasurer Cameron King and appointed representatives Dylan Li and Aliza Zaman.

The winners for the class of 2020 were: president Claire Smerdon, vice president Alexandra Lee, treasurer Nandini Desai and appointed representatives Bryan Chu and Nicole Wong.

Torrens said that he, along with elections commissioner Tarun Krishnan and on-campus tech support Larry Jens collaborated after the ASB election fiasco to implement the new individualized link system, which turned out to be a success.

Chen said the new individualized voting system was much better than the previous one.

“The voting system changed and everybody got a secure link,” Chen said. “I think that caused far fewer problems in the voting process.”

The process for coming up with the system was not overnight, according to Torrens. At the time of the ASB elections, there was much debate over how to solve the voting issue.

Many students, as a result of the problems with 5-Star Students, had suggested that the school return to paper ballots for class office and ASB elections.

Despite the initial potential flaws of the 5-Star voting system, however, Torrens said paper ballots also came with their shortcomings, especially the fact that multiple teachers forget to hand out  ballots to their classes or didn’t turn them in on time.

In the end, the class office elections this year were fair, with no reported cases of voting fraud, due to the new voting system implemented by the Leadership Class.

“I’m really glad that we finally have a new system that works,” Chen said.

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