With CSUN legislative elections being held last month, a recall petition nearing enough votes to remove the current executive branch and the student body president recently resigning his position, members of CSUN staff responsible for elections talked about how votes are counted.
The system for voting in CSUN elections is entirely conducted through the UNLV Involvement Center. There, UNLV students log in using their ACE ID and cast their ballot digitally, then the votes are all counted and stored digitally in a database that is only accessible to a select few.
Once all votes are in and the numbers are reviewed and verified, they are revealed to the rest of the student body.
Assistant director of student government and activities, Colt Kraus is in charge of the casting, counting and recording of votes, according to Alicia Friedlander, associate director of elections.
Kraus has been using the current voting system since he joined the university in 2017.
The year before Kraus arrived at UNLV, the previous election system was replaced after a cheating scandal that he referred to as “NSHE-gate.”
“All you had to do was put in your NSHE number [to vote],” said Kraus, “and they think that someone got ahold of a bunch of entry numbers and then voted for people. There was actually a police investigation into it.”
Kraus said the investigation never came up with any conclusive results, but the entire voting system was overhauled in response.
The current CSUN voting system used a combination of paper ballots, paid poll workers and the involvement center based online voting when it was first implemented. Though CSUN eventually stopped using paper ballots and poll workers after they were deemed unnecessary, Kraus said.
It’s much more difficult to cheat in the current system, according to Kraus and Friedlander.
Kraus said that voting for someone else, like what allegedly happened in “NSHE-gate,” is much less likely because students use their ACE account credentials to vote, and giving away ACE account information is much more risky to students than giving out their NSHE numbers.
The only plausible way to cheat in the current system, according to Kraus, is through an early leak of election counts.
Friedlander said that leaking numbers to candidates early gives them an unfair advantage. It’s also very hard to punish them for that unfair advantage due to loopholes within the election commission’s system.
“That’s certainly not what we as a commission want to happen,” said Friedlander.
Despite the improved election security, the last executive election still had accusations of cheating from both sides. But Kraus doubts the validity of these accusations.
“I don’t think that either side cheated,” said Kraus. “Like I think people say that because it was so close, but I honestly think it was just that close.”
Kraus said that the last executive election was the closest that he’s ever seen for CSUN.
Not only was it the closest, but the turnout was relatively high among CSUN elections, according to Kraus.
Though the number of votes were high for a CSUN election, Kraus said that the numbers should still be much higher. He said that the biggest improvement to be made to the current CSUN election system lies in its marketing.
“If we have like 24,000, 25,000 students and we get 1,000 to vote that’s terrible, but in terms of higher numbers, those last two were a couple of the higher ones that we’ve had,” said Kraus. “CSUN hasn’t done a very good job of promoting the elections and marketing them. They could do a much better job at that.”