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UWI Guild scratches vote as online portal freezes

Published:Thursday | May 28, 2020 | 12:00 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer


Systems glitches doomed yesterday's historic online vote for the student government at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, forcing a postponement to June 2.

The decision was made late yesterday following consultation with the information technology technicians.

All votes previously cast will be discarded.

Guild of Students President Christina Williams told The Gleaner that the platform had been trialled with two hall elections and a number of club polls.

She declined to divulge the extent of the challenges but hinted that the scale of the guild vote might have put pressure on the platform's capacity.

"Testing is fickle in that the electoral committee tested halls through it and would have had their elections successfully, but a hall has a maximum of 500 students. It is not equivalent in any shape or form to the school population," Williams said.

Up to 4 p.m. yesterday, technicians were working to resolve the issues.

Owing to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on educational institutions, campaigning dragged on for three months, and the tenure of current guild representatives was extended for a month and a half to facilitate the transition.

Williams likened the challenges of online learning to that of the voting process, noting that some students may still have limited access to services.

"I would hope that if not a higher voter turnout, that the turnout we usually get, which is about 3,000 to 4,000 students, will at least be maintained," Williams told The Gleaner.

Approximately 20,000 students attend the Mona campus.


A 24-hour voting window was allotted to facilitate verified voters with different levels of access.

"It's being done through the university's administration to ensure security, and students are able to vote through a link that is sent to their email. It is a personalised link, so nobody else can use that link as it is designed based on ID numbers," she said of anti-fraud contingencies.

In April, the Jamaica Union of Tertiary Students (JUTS) issued an advisory imploring tertiary institutions to host student government elections online.

"The business of student representation must go on and must be done through a democratic process. Such an idea is not foreign to us here in Jamaica," JUTS had said.

It cited Northern Caribbean University, which has hosted its elections online for the last five years with a student population of more than 2,500 students.

In an interview yesterday, JUTS President Everton Rattray said he hoped that the online procedure would reduce voter apathy.

Rattray said that the Electoral Office of Jamaica did not provide oversight of the elections as was customary because of the format.

"We reached out to National Integrity Action, and we asked them to engage with us in the process of creating transparency in the execution of these online elections," he said.

Rattray added that tertiary institutions were also urged to integrate voting portals in e-learning platforms that were given zero-rated status a few weeks after online learning commenced.

A cost-benefit analysis of physical versus online elections was not yet available, but Rattray said it could be the way forward for student elections.