One year after the SimplyVoting system recorded 200 “impossible” votes in the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) elections, the union has not investigated the anomaly.
In May 2015, The Varsity reported that the online results of the 2015 spring election “yielded an anomaly,” in which 200 votes were recorded as submitted within a second of the polls being opened. Zijian Yang, then chair of the Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC), said the votes were “physically impossible.”
According to Ben Coleman, UTSU president, no investigation was conducted due to a lack of information from the previous year. In addition to the anomalies, there were inaccuracies in the chief returning officer’s (CRO) report last year. An investigation into the errors revealed that the report had excluded the paper ballots and only included the numbers from the online voting system.
Coleman denied any connection between the inaccuracies presented in the CRO report and the observed voting anomaly; however, he did say that there have been some changes made to the SimplyVoting system to ensure the verifiability of the voting results.
The ERC explored alternative voting systems last semester and decided to remain with SimplyVoting. “[SimplyVoting] has some crucial features that voting.utoronto.ca lacks, including WCAG 2.0 accessibility compliance, support for a ranked ballot and, most importantly, independence from the UTSU and the university,” said Coleman.
After a student votes online, they will receive an anonymous code and a receipt that reflects their voting preferences; the student can use this information to check against a “publicly available list of results.” This method of confirmation has not been used in previous UTSU elections.
“At the bottom of the verified results is a link to download the spreadsheet with a list of anonymous receipts, meaning that any student can verify that their own vote was recorded correctly and can also verify that the single transferable vote calculation was properly calculated in the system.Additionally the UTSU bylaws now have a rule to ensure that scrutineers see the online results,” Coleman explained.
The old Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption mentioned by Coleman has also been fixed and replaced with Transport Layer Security (TSL), which Coleman says is more up-to-date.
The online voting system will be accessible 24 hours a day from the commencement of the voting period on March 22 at midnight, until the end of voting at 6:30 pm on March 24. Previously, the online voting system was only available at the same hours as that of the in-person voting.
Correction (March 22, 2016): An earlier version of this article misquoted UTSU president, Ben Coleman. Coleman made reference to WCAG 2.0 (web content accessibility guidelines), not WAG 2.0, in reference to shortcomings to the voting.utoronto.ca format.