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After Voting Troubles, UC to Debut New Election Software

Catherine L. Zhang ’19 and Nicholas D. Boucher ’19 lead the first UC meeting of the semester.
Catherine L. Zhang ’19 and Nicholas D. Boucher ’19 lead the first UC meeting of the semester. By Amy Y. Li
By Jonah S. Berger, Crimson Staff Writer

After voting issues plagued the Undergraduate Council’s most recent presidential election, the UC will roll out new election software beginning with this week’s midterm elections.

UC Vice President Nicholas D. Boucher ’19 announced the new software at the Council’s first meeting of the year Sunday.

The new software will utilize an external system, created by OrgSync, an online management company that already provides software to Harvard, Boucher said. Harvard University Information Technology managed the UC’s previous election software.

During last November’s presidential election, some students reported they were unable to access the Council’s voting website. In response, the UC’s Election Commission allowed students to submit ballots via email, though those votes were ultimately not counted due to concerns over duplicate voting.

Winthrop House Representative Evan M. Bonsall ’19 said he finds the new system problematic, largely due to concerns about information security. He pointed out that the previous system successfully prevented harmful actors from tampering with the election results.

“Do you have a plan in place prevent people from hacking the UC voting system?” Bonsall asked. “The main advantage of the old system is that it was kind of hard to hack and was operated by the University.”

Boucher assured Bonsall the new software was more secure than the current software, arguing it has been more thoroughly tested.

“We’re very confident that it’s secure because we’re using professional software that we’ve outsourced,” Boucher said. “It’s a very high-budget contract that the university signed with this particular company and it’s actually used for student elections at quite a lot of schools across the country.”

Voting for this year’s midterm elections will take place between Tuesday and Thursday.

During the meeting, the Undergraduate Council also voted to allocate $3,000 towards “Harvard Conversations,” a new student-run program to facilitate informal interactions between faculty and students.

The initiative, which utilizes one of the UC’s “burst packs,” will follow a similar model as Classroom to Table, the popular College program that pays for students to eat at local restaurants with their professors. Harvard Conversations will pay for catered dinners in House common rooms.

Winthrop House Representative Sruthi Palaniappan ’20, who co-sponsored the legislation, acknowledged that the UC’s contribution will only partly fund the new program, but said that administrators have offered to fund the remaining amount.

“Jay Harris, who is head of the Office of Undergraduate Education, has expressed interest in supporting this program,” Palaniappan said. “But we want to front this $3,000, one burst pack, even though we know that the program is going to cost more because if we are able to put this money up out front, he will cover the rest.”

During the meeting, UC President Catherine L. Zhang ’19 announced that Wilfried J. Zibell ’21 will serve as the Council’s new Rules Committee chair, and Sonya Kalara ’21 will serve as the new parliamentarian.

—Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.

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