Monday, April 13, 2009

UI Student Government Election Postponed

UI Student Government Election Postponed

A student government election that set new heights in online campaigning has been delayed a week after hours of timing out and crashing.

An emergency Student Elections Board meeting rescheduled the online voting, already underway, for April 20 and 21.

The University of Iowa campus election drew statewide attention for its Facebook-driven campaigns and as a political proxy war. The name GO Party was unsubtle, and local student Obama organizers have been active in Your Party. Even the colors--Democratic blue for Your Party and Republican red for Go Party--are partisan. A third group, the L Party, was also contesting the election; their ties to the political parties were less apparent to this aged observer.

Student government elections at the University of Iowa have strict, unenforcable and somewhat silly rules--"adding friends to a Facebook group before the allowed time" was an actual charge that was flung--and a dustup over an allegedly biased debate moderator led the Go Party and the L Party to boycott a debate. But one rule everyone seemed to understand was that voting was from 12:00 Monday the 13th to 5 p.m. Tuesday the 14th.

Voting started at midnight Monday but quickly stalled, Students logged onto their University accounts and clicked an external link to vote. "Right at midnight people were having issues voting," Your Party presidential candidate Emily Grieves told me. "At some point there was a crash with this third party server."

Grieves said some people were able to vote Monday, with better luck in the wee hours of the morning, but others weren't. "What's disturbing is some students were able to log on, but a lot more tried and were turned away at the virtual polls."

"People were calling, texting, messaging me all day asking what the deal was," said Grieves, adding she had seen no pattern, partisan or otherwise, as to who was able to log on. "I met with the Go Party candidate and he was experiencing the same thing."

The Facebook pages are dealing with the fallout. Your Party supporter Atul Nakhasi "finds it ridiculous that we pay to export our voting system to a third-party company in Washington DC, which doesn't even function when it matters." Other posts charges that the election was outsourced "because the IT people didn't want to do it anymore." (Elections have been online since 2000; before that the Student Elections Board contracted with the county auditor's office and voting was on paper ballots.)

But Your Party supporter Caitlin Ross is gearing up for the extended campaign, telling her Facebook friends "Please change your statuses and pictures accordingly. We will continue rocking out later on!"

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