By Jonathan Smith, Editor in Chief
Less than 24 hours before the Students’ Association election for executive officers was to take place online for the first time, network administrators informed the elections committee that online voting could not happen because of a conflict with freshman registration.
Dr. James Langford, director of Web Integration and Programming, said he did not realize online voting, set to begin at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, would coincide almost directly with freshman registration, which began at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
“We were concerned about trying to roll [online voting] out on the same day,” Langford said, because there was no way to know how the relatively untested voting system would affect my.ACU network traffic on university servers. “It just seemed like a bad risk.”
In normal situations, Langford said university servers can easily handle network traffic as people sign on and off of my.ACU. However, during times when students can register for classes, many students sign on to my.ACU and sit and wait for registration to begin instead of soon logging off. This causes increased network traffic that can sometimes overload the servers, causing them to crash.
Langford said his office typically devotes two servers to handle my.ACU network traffic. After students first had the opportunity to register March 16, administrators devoted a third larger server, which doubled the servers’ capacity.
With the added capacity, Langford said sophomore, junior and senior registration all went relatively smoothly. However, increased traffic during freshman registration Wednesday-even without online voting in place-had already caused one server to crash.
Langford said although he wished that at least one more test could have been performed on the voting system-which likely will be performed this weekend-he still would not have allowed the voting system to open the same day as registration.
SA elections chair Patrick Leech, sophomore history major from Tuscola, said he was informed that voting might not take place online Tuesday afternoon and after working through several options, learned about 5 p.m. that voting would have to take place on Scantron ballots.
Leech said even with that surprise, voting has gone smoothly so far. Between the eight people on the elections committee, Leech said they were able to cover the voting table at all times with at least one person or more.
Results will not be able to be tallied as quickly with paper balloting as with online voting, but Leech said once the ballot box is opened for the first time at 7 p.m. Friday, results can be tallied by 8 p.m.
Online voting was supposed to increase voter turnout among students for elections where turnout has been regularly less than 30 percent. Even without online voting, Leech said he hoped that a highly contested race for executive president would draw more students to vote.
Should executive officer elections require a runoff next week between the top two candidates for executive president, Langford said he is hopeful that online voting could be implemented for that. Online voting should also be in place for class senator elections April 11 through 13.