WMU News

Student election features high-tech ballot 'boxes'

March 12, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Computers will serve as additional ballot "boxes" when Western Michigan University's student governing board conducts its annual election Monday and Tuesday, March 18 and 19.

With the help of WMU's Office of Information Technology, the Western Student Association will be offering online voting for its 2002-03 officers, giving students a convenient alternative to going to the polls at designated times during the two days and casting paper ballots.

The Web-based voting option is being instituted just one month after President Elson S. Floyd announced the successful conclusion of an intensive yearlong initiative to make the Kalamazoo campus a totally wireless computing environment. That initiative resulted in the University being one of the first major research institutions in the nation, and the only one in Michigan, to offer campuswide wireless computing.

Now, WMU is joining a growing number of higher education institutions across the country that are employing computer technology to increase participation in student government.

"Only 7 percent of our student body voted in the last Western Student Association election," says Derondal Bevly, a business administration major from Wyoming, Mich., and public relations chairperson for the WSA.

"Based on the reports we've heard from schools that have had Web-based voting for a year or two, we expected turnout to increase at least 25 percent and perhaps as much as 50 or 60 percent. "I think it can help out our population here at Western immensely."

Bevly notes that an earlier attempt to implement online voting in the mid-1990s was unsuccessful because the loosely organized effort was poorly designed and had technical problems. He says voting will be much smoother this time around because WSA planned ahead and teamed up with the University's information technology staff.

As part of that planning, he says procedures have been developed to ensure that students will not be able to cast more than one online vote or to cast an online vote and then vote again at one of the six polling stations that will be open around campus.

The new voting option is an outgrowth of a larger effort WSA implemented this year called Project Outreach, Bevly adds. The project recognizes that WMU's nearly 30,000 students have vastly different schedules and lifestyles, so more needs to be done to involve them in student government.

Consequently, the WSA has been beefing up its on-campus advertising related to major events such as candidate debates, varying the times at which it schedules debates, working more closely with other student organizations, and even taping meetings and debates for later multiple rebroadcasts on EduCABLE, WMU's dedicated cable system.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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Western Michigan University
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