The election for the University of Guelph’s Central Student Association has been cancelled after being ‘ascertainably compromised.’
The online election was scheduled to wrap up on March 15, but instead, an in-person re-election has been announced.
This is because on March 9, the CSA Elections Team was made aware of students who were unable to vote.
“When the students tried to login to vote, their ballot indicated they had already voted, despite the students not actually having voted,” said CSA president, Nicole Walker.
“This was a very serious concern that prompted an investigation by the CSA Elections Team.”
The investigation revealed the proper security measures were not in place to ensure a secure vote.
That the decision to run a re-election was made on the day the election was supposed to end was a mere coincidence, she said.
“We were only made aware of a potential security concern regarding the ballot by students trying to vote on Thursday evening and our staff required time to gather all the facts to verify the ballot was indeed compromised.”
By Monday, they had determined it was compromised, and called an emergency board meeting to report on their findings and determine what the next move was.
After the meeting it was announced they would be moving to the online elections contingency plan, which requires a re-election with paper ballots and in-person polling stations on campus.
“Ideally, this situation could have been prevented if we had been aware that the current security measures were not sufficient to ensure a valid vote,” Walker said, adding the CSA will be investigating future online ballot options and security measures to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
The initial election ran from March 6 to 10, but was extended for another five days because the referendum question hadn’t reached quorum (the percentage of undergraduate students required to authenticate the vote), which is 20 per cent.
According to Walker, the CSA has a longstanding history of extending elections, “so much so that we incorporate a voting extension into our election timelines.”
Although the candidates had all reached quorum, “the election was extended since the referendum vote did not reach quorum, which has been done in years prior when quorum is not reached within the voting week,” she said.
Candidates are running for executive and board positions for the 2023-2024 academic year, but nearly all positions are acclaimed, only the referendum vote and two candidates for president, Adam Ratkowski and Shaima Alam, will be impacted by the change.
However, Walker said during the meeting the board agreed to ensure that if the ballot was not ruled to be compromised, it would not impact the remainder of the election.
Alam said she understands why the re-election needs to happen, but having to campaign again for the re-election is frustrating, since she and others planned and campaigned for three or four weeks, and will have to start campaigning again on March 20.
"But it's kind of like, oh well," she said. "There's nothing we can do about it. I'd rather not have votes that were falsely made for either side."
She is unsure whether the in-person election will influence voter turnout, since many people didn't know the election was happening in the first place, but the polling stations will be visible on campus.
The new election will take place from March 27 to April 5. The campaign period will begin on March 20, and voting will take place in person, on paper ballots.
More information on the process will be released in the upcoming weeks, as will the minutes from the emergency meeting.
GuelphToday reached out to several candidates including Ratkowski for comment on the new plans, but did not hear back.
You can see the full statement and list of polling stations here.