Volume 93, Issue 12

Wednesday, March 18, 1999


Editorial Board 1999-2000

On the election superhighway

On the election superhighway

Is double clicking our way to democracy a technological advancement or further isolation of cyber-students everywhere?

Today the university Senate will be introducing a motion to bring on-line voting to the Board of Governors and Senate undergraduate elections. If pushed through, students could soon find themselves polling at electronic stations from various locations around campus. This seems to be yet another step in the further automation of our lives.

As students, we must investigate why this is being brought forward. On the surface it would seem to be a convenience for voters who legitimately do not have the time to vote during hectic days. However, think of all the time spent rubber necking on the Concrete Beach and browsing through endless copies of "Please Hammer... Don't Hurt Him" at the used CD sale. The apathy of Western students could not possibly have progressed to the point of crippling our ability to X or check ballot slips.

It is probably true to say voter turn-out will increase by taking the voting process to the information superhighway. In the end, however, will the quality of votes be affected? Although traditionally voter turn-out has been poor at the university level, those who know the issues and the candidates make informed choices the majority of the time. The increased accessibility may in fact sway the vote count to reflect haphazard clicking.

With the move to electronic voting, paper based ballot boxes will no longer be necessary around campus. All election stations are run by paid Western students, which raises the question of whether the issue is about money. Perhaps more relevant, the number of visual cues around campus should not decrease if the electronic method is chosen. Sometimes, manned voting tables are the only reminder to students that now is the time to cast their ballot.

Currently, every individual who votes must have their Western I picture I.D. card and paper portion present. If student numbers and four digit pin numbers are known, will fraudulent voting will be much more prevalent?

There are a lot of questions which definitely need to be addressed before something like this can be implemented and run smoothly. If the questions are answered, one has to wonder if a precendent will be set and University Students' Council elections will be close behind.

Municipal, provincial and federal governments have increasingly been kicking around this idea as technology continues to entrench itself within our lives. Western can be seen as a microcosm, with it's actions parallelling those of the nation. Successful online implementation here could indicate eventual online voting becoming the national norm.

Who knows, soon all of us may have the ability to be voting for our favourite political candidate one minute and watching his online impeachment trial the next.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999