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BSG votes to adopt student-created voting software

March 1, 2019

On Wednesday, Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) representatives deliberated and voted on a new voting system. Out of the three choices—a student-created, computer-based system, paper ballots and software purchased from an external provider—the majority voted for buying student-created software.

Along with the incorporation of ranked choice voting, as decided at the end of this past November, the key part of the new system is that it randomizes the candidates’ names, an ability that Blink, the current system, does not have. This is meant to curb any undue advantage a candidate might gain from being listed first on the ballot. This new system is more user-friendly for both voters and BSG members who receive and report the results.

“It is important to have something that we know how to operate instead of bringing someone else,” said Chair of Student Affairs Jenna Scott ’19, explaining why BSG chose to have a student-created system rather than external software.

Computer science major Dylan Hayton-Ruffner ’20 has been experimenting with a new system that will meet BSG’s needs.

When discussing the costs and benefits of the new system, Vice President for Student Government Affairs Amber Rock ’19 reminded delegates that student-created systems have been a problem in the past. She referenced a past election during which the system crashed and, because the student-creator had graduated, BSG didn’t know how to fix it.

Athletics representative Khelsea Gordon ’19 said that the purchase of an outside computer software would decrease the probability of system crashes and maintain a team of professionals to fix it.

Chair of the Treasury Harry Sherman ’21, however, had researched potential new systems and did not feel confident in this option.

“Adopting another outside software would require us to fundamentally alter our voting process,” he said. “It would take a group of people to master the system and communicate the system to the entire school. I’m not sure if it is worth it.”

For the paper ballot voting option, the consensus was that it would harm voter turnout and make the process of tabulating votes significantly more labor intensive.

“No one would want to spend that amount of time counting ballots,” Sustainability Representative Milo Richards ’21 said.

Although Curriculum and Implementation Policy Representative Victoria Yu ’19 said handing out paper ballots and stickers in David Saul Smith Union would increase student motivation to vote, Chair of Diversity and Inclusion Mamadou Diaw ’20 emphasized the possibility of a similar campaign with electronic ballots.


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