Council Voting Begins Early This Morning

Students receive links to online ballots two days behind schedule links to online ballots

More than two days after the scheduled start time for Undergraduate Council elections, students in some Houses were finally able to cast their ballots early this morning.

Starting at around 2:45 a.m., students in Currier House received e-mails with personalized links to a website that allows them to vote.

Students will be able to vote until noon on Saturday, said Council Technology Coordinator Jared S. Morgenstern ’03. The election was originally slated to end at 11:59 p.m. today.

Morgenstern said early this morning that the council would send an e-mail to one student every other second. He said that by his calculations, every student should have received an e-mail by 5:25 a.m. directing them to the elections website.

The site is designed to authenticate votes by using data from the registrar’s office. Morgenstern said the council was given access to all necessary information by the registrar’s office yesterday afternoon.

But the University required the council to store the data on a Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) server. That decision created problems with the council’s e-mail software, which sent out the voting notices, Morgenstern said.

The e-mails come from the FAS server containing personalized links created with the registrar’s data, but the links send students to a non-Harvard website. According to Morgenstern, the e-mail program could not handle these tasks.

So he had to redesign it.

The e-mail sent to students reads, “You’ve been invited to vote in the Undergraduate Council elections. We’ve even taken the opportunity of setting up a ballot for you online. To access this ballot, simply click on the link below.”

At the bottom of the ballot is a note that reads, “If you see Eddie or Jared, give them a hug for all they’ve done.”

Edward D. Lim ’02 helped design the new system with Morgenstern.

“We’re happy to be done with this and we hope the election process is better,” Morgenstern said.

Council President Sujean S. Lee ’03 said last night the elections would kick off when Morgenstern finished rewriting the e-mail program.

“At this point, it’s really not up to me,” she said. “It’s up to when Jared finishes... It’s basically an issue of human labor.”

The council’s previous voting plans would have allowed students to cast ballots at its own website, www.ucelections.org, and the site would have authenticated votes using the same registrar’s information that the e-mails will use. But that procedure fell through after Associate Dean of the College David P. Illingworth ’71 told the council it could not store sensitive registrar’s data on a non-Harvard server.

Last night, Morgenstern predicted the e-mails would be sent out by 6 a.m. this morning.

By about 10 p.m. last night, the elections website displayed a brief message saying, “the Undergraduate Council elections are back on track. prepare yourself. you should expect an email between midnight and six am.”

The message, signed by Morgenstern, also referred to Lim as “the true savior of the undergraduate council.”

The deadline extension is the second to receive official approval in the past two days.

Nancy A. Redd ’03, chair of the council’s Election Commission, had announced yesterday over the council’s e-mail list that the deadline would be extended until 10 a.m. tomorrow.

But with the added postponements, Morgenstern said Lee gave the go-ahead for the extension.

The new ballots feature the option of changing one’s votes any time before the deadline, Lim said.

When asked about whether the Election Commission had approved this feature, Lim said he was “pretty sure it did.”

Matthew S. Moon ’05, a candidate in Currier House who cast his ballot this morning, said, “Changing your vote at any time during the period is sketchy.”

Lee said that the new system may actually help increase voter turnout.

“It will actually be much easier since every student is receiving an e-mail,” she said. “We’re thinking that this will compensate for [the delay].”

But some candidates seeking council seats said they disagreed.

“I think it’s problematic that students have been unable to vote,” Sheila R. Adams ’05, a candidate in Eliot House, said yesterday. “It may hinder the voter turnout a bit, which is never a good thing.”

Jared M. Gross ’03, a candidate in Pforzheimer House who is vying for his fourth term on the council, said candidates may have to change their campaigning strategies due to the delays.

“Candidates who have been campaigning seriously probably now find themselves having to make an extra push to remind people,” he said.

—Staff writer Alexander J. Blenkinsopp can be reached at blenkins@fas.harvard.edu.