With voting for AMS Elections opening in just over one week, we sat down with Ricardo Bortolon, Chief Returning Officer, to get the details on how students will be voting.

In summary, the key points for this year are:

1. No paper balloting (except affiliated colleges)
2. 15 minute voting time limit – research candidates in advance
3. AMS Executive elections using Condorcet ranked ballots, other positions remain First-Past-the-Post
4. Elections Committee may allow groups to set up informal polling stations

Full details about this year’s system are below.

Online Voting

New to this year’s elections is the elimination of paper balloting (with the exception of the 4 theological colleges). In a bid to simplify the balloting process and save costs on poll clerks, voting stations across campus will be replaced by tables with laptops connected to the AMS voting website. AMS poll clerks will still be present at each station to answer any questions, and ensure that campaigning regulations regarding proximity to voting booths are upheld, however balloting will be done entirely online with the same system students can access from home.

The online voting system will work much the same as last year. Students will be directed to sign-in with their CWL and will be presented with an informational splash page detailing each race and referendum question, as well as voting instructions. One important change to note is that the previous 2 minute time per-session limit has been replaced with a 15 minute hard cap. Once voters navigate to the ballot page, a 15 minute timer will start. This timer can be paused by logging out of the system (which will save choices made up to that point), however it will not reset. If you run out of time, the system will submit your ballot with as many votes as you have chosen at that point. Similarly, if you have a saved partial ballot at the end of voting, it will be submitted with the candidates that you had chosen and void for the rest.

As wireless internet can often become unreliable, it is quite likely that some dropped connections will occur. When asked about lost connections, Bortolon admitted that they don’t have a solution. If voters lose their internet connection without completing their ballot or signing out of the system, they are asked to call the AMS Elections Office right away and a manual override will be put in place for their account.

The situation is complicated, however, as students at the theological colleges (Regent College, Vancouver School of Theology, St. Marks College, Corpus Christi College) on campus do not all have CWL accounts. All members of these affiliated colleges are AMS members, paying AMS fees, and are thus entitled to vote in elections. To ensure these students can vote, paper-ballot stations are being setup in both Regent College and VST. The Elections Committee will be promoting at St. Marks and Corpus Christi as well, and encouraging students there to vote at Regent or VST.


Once again, all AMS Executive positions will be elected using a ranked ballot, with the Condorcet method. Detailed explanations exist, however the gist of the system is that each voter ranks candidates in order of preference. Pairings are then determined between each candidate, and after some liberal application of math, a winner is chosen. Since this system takes into account the full range of each voter’s preferences, the winner is supposed to be the best compromise for the most voters.

As the AMS conducts elections for At-Large Senate seats as well as the Board of Governors representatives on behalf of the University, they will remain as simple First Past the Post ballots. Similarly, the votes for the Ubyssey Publications Society and Student Legal Fund Society will also be FPtP.

Informal Polling Stations

The Elections Committee is currently considering requests from at least one unnamed group about setting up informal polling stations which would not be run by the EC. This is a difficult area to draw a line in, as online voting essentially makes any computer with an internet connection a potential polling station, however it shall prove interesting to see if groups may set up more formal stations. When we spoke with Bortolon earlier this week decisions had not yet been made as to whether these would be allowed, or how they would be managed. More information will be posted as it becomes available.


2 Comments so far

  1. Brad Beattie on January 18, 2010 8:26 am

    If you’re ever looking for a multi-winner system that still elects the Condorcet winner, I have an open-source implementation of Schulze STV: http://www.modernballots.com

  2. Ricardo on January 18, 2010 5:14 pm

    Last night, while going over the voting page with our page designer, I was informed that it is now possible for the time to reset every time someone logs in, so it does!

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind

Spam prevention powered by Akismet