This fall, for the first time, Williams students voted from their dorm rooms.The College Council house representative elections were conducted through a system called “Judicious Online Student Elections” (JOSE), which CC expects to use in all up-coming elections.
The system was developed over the summer as an alternative to paper and e-mail elections, which were used in the past.The idea for the system originated in CC with some leadership from Ryan Mayhew ’01, who brought the proposal to Williams Students Online (WSO) and the Office of Information Technology.
According to Mayhew, the requirements for the system included restricting voting to certain classes, houses or groups, the ability to open and close the polls automatically at a pre-determined time, insurance that voting can occur only from on-campus computers, and, of course, assurance that an individual can only vote once.
“We really wanted to streamline the voting process and make the whole thing more efficient and accessible,” Mayhew said. Other goals included boosting voter turnout and increasing the speed and accuracy of vote counting.
“The system is extremely flexible,” Joe Masters ’02 said, who wrote the program. “It has the ability to run opinion polls…and elections for any organization on campus.”
“It isn’t customized for College Counil,” Mayhew agreed.
Was the system a success? For the most part, Mayhew noted. “It was very successful in that it provides a more accurate and speedy service that requires less time on the part of whomever is running the election.”
“The added benefit of full accounting of voting is just icing on the cake,” Masters noted. The success of JOSE in generating more voter turnout is unclear, since no accurate statistics on the subject have been available in the past, and there is little information to compare with this year’s participation.
Voter turnout for uncontested house elections was low, with voter participation ranging from five to 36 percent. Contested elections ranged from 26 to 50 percent of voter participating.
“It would be great to get those numbers up higher,” Mayhew said. “We’ll be using the system for the upcoming frosh elections, and we’ll have another chance to see how it goes.”