First-Years Will Vote Via Internet

Voter Turnout Expected to Increase

For the first time ever, first-year students will be able to vote via the Internet in next week's Undergraduate Council general elections.

Electronic voting is gradually being phased in to help increase voter turnout and the speed and accuracy with which votes are counted, according to Eric M. Silberstein '98, a member of the council's election commission.

If this year's experiment is successful, upperclass students may get the same opportunity next year.

"We wanted to test this on a smaller group first before having the whole school vote this way," Silberstein said.

Last year's voter turnout for the council's general elections was around 25 percent, Silberstein said. Council members hope this system will encourage more people to vote in the popular elections of the council president and vice president slated to take place for the first time next year.


"I think this is a great tool," said Jonathan P. Feeney '97, a council presidential candidate who is outgoing co-chair of the council's Campus Life Committee.

"The most important mission of the council this semester is to prepare for the direct presidential elections. They could transform the council."

First-years were a natural choice for the electronic experiment for several reasons, Silberstein said.

"There are [computers] in the dining hall so when the U.C. tables there, we can help them use the system," he said. "Also, each class gets more and more computer literate and [first-years] have more accounts than any other class."

First-years who want to vote may do so at any computer on campus that is connected to the University network. There are three ways to enter the voting program.

Students can log on normally and type "vote" at the Unix prompt. Or they can enter "vote" instead of their login name if they don't have an e-mail account or have forgotten their passwords.

A third option is being developed to allow students to vote if part of the network is out of service.

After entering the voting program, students will provide their student ID numbers, first and last names and home zip codes.

Next, they can look at position papers for candidates. They then vote by ranking the candidates in their district.

A number of security measures have been put in place to reduce the risk of voter fraud, Silberstein said.

After a vote is registered, a computer program will automatically send an e-mail message to the account of the person who voted. The message will say a vote was received from that account and give the time it was received.