Students’ Association and the Association for Computing Machinery collaborated to change the voting system on campus from ballots to an online site. Rather than heading to the Campus Center in person, students will soon be able to vote during elections through the internet.
The ACU voting website is still in beta testing but will be implemented either this semester or the next. The site allows students to log-in through ACU single sign-on. Users will then be able to vote for elections occurring on campus.
Dylan Benac, SA president and senior political science major from Boerne, began planning for the move from paper to technology two years ago.
Benac had to plan and obtain approval from the university, working alongside the former Association for Computing Machinery president, Allen Taylor, senior information technology major from Austin and vice president Travis Cramer, senior computer science major from Flower Mound. Because online voting is new to campus, Taylor and Cramer were tasked with programming the system from the ground up but encountered issues with the code.
Taylor searched for a voting software available for public use.
“I spent about a week dissecting the program’s code and slowly studied how it worked,” Taylor said.
By making some tweaks and adding and removing code to the software, Taylor and Cramer were able to set up the voting system that has recently gone online for tests. Servers were purchased and the university allowed the site to be registered under acu.edu. Taylor also designed an ACU themed interface for the website.
“The voting website is easy to use,” Benac said. “In the back-end of it, we can generate different types of elections for the campus to use.”
The system allows for the administrators to break down a voting election into positions, candidates, voters and even blocks.
Benac said the blocks will allow the voter list to be organized appropriately for use.
“The list has already been put together at Zellner by people who work to provide it,” he said. “All we need to do is to email them for a list.”
A list of voters prevents users from voting more than once and prohibits those who are not undergraduates from voting. Even if the user tries to submit different votes, only the first one that goes through will be counted.
With the use of ACU’s single sign-on and the one-vote method, the voting system is well prepared for the coming elections.
In the past, most elections occurred in the Campus Center from noon to 5 p.m.
The time frame and location for collection ballots reached less than 25 percent of the student population, Benac said.
With the new voting system, students who rarely visit the Campus Center can simply go online and vote using their mobile devices.
Although ease of access is a definite outcome from the system, Benac said students who wish to run for office have to work harder to get students to vote, rather than just promoting themselves outside the Campus Center.
With the website holding valuable information, servers have been installed with security measures and firewalls to prevent hacking attempts.
Benac and Taylor said even if the servers were breached, the list of users and their information is anonymous.
“If anyone tried to steal a user’s information,” Benac said, “he will be faced with charges for identity theft.”
SA and ACM will continue to work together to confirm that the voting system will be operational for the future.