On May 18, Mamaroneck High School launched a new electronic voting system for the 2016 Student Council and Student Faculty Advisory Committee elections. The system, a Google form sent by email that was meant to streamline the cumbersome process of distributing, collecting and counting paper ballots—while also making the election more fair by eliminating the human error associated with counting ballots by hand—ended up confusing a student populace not ready for the change.
Problems with the new policy were accentuated by an imperfect rollout, which was plagued by a glitch that didn’t allow class advisors to send out the email containing the electronic ballots from their phones. This caused students to have to vote after the class meetings had concluded, forcing them to remember to check their school emails for the ballot.
Many students, amidst a busy high school schedule, forgot to check their rarely used school emails, meaning that they couldn’t vote. One such student, David Lehman ’17, did not have notifications on for his school email, causing him to have “completely forgotten about [voting].” Only hours later did Lehman see the email, after the strict deadline of lunchtime had passed. In a statement to The Globe he remarked that “the electronic voting system is flawed as long as they do not do it while everyone is still in the [class] ‘meeting’ places,” and that “the election doesn’t represent everyone… because it’s so easy for people to forget or to miss the email.”
Tommy Leicht ’18 also did not vote, but he blamed his disenfranchisement on the lack of convenience associated with electronic balloting. The sophomore “would’ve voted if they gave [him] a piece of paper,” but “didn’t want to get out [his] iPad and check [his] email.”
While Leicht’s complaints may sound relatively frivolous, his difficulties are reflected in a slight decrease in voter numbers from the days of paper ballots in the sophomore and junior classes. According to MHS officials the usual number of voters per class hovers around 250-300 students, but only 210 sophomores, representing 56% of the class, and 197 juniors, representing 57% of the class, voted. Since the Freshman class did not follow this trend, with 303 freshmen—83% of the class—voting, Leicht’s remarks may reveal the underlying cause of a dip in voting levels. Sophomores and juniors used to the convenience of being handed paper ballots struggled to adapt, while freshmen reacted relatively well to what they saw for the first time.
The new electronic voting system rolled out for the 2016 school elections made vote processing more convenient and accurate at the expense of making voting less convenient. Sophomores and juniors were hit hardest by the changes, resulting in a voter turnout in the neighborhood of 50%. While the success of the system with the freshman class suggests that its effectiveness will improve with the entry of new classes into the high school, it is evident, based on the decrease in the number of students voting and lackluster voter turnout, that electronic balloting was less effective than traditional paper balloting in its first year of usage.
By Jack Mollin