For the first time, students will be able to vote using AirBears during the ASUC general election.
In the past, though online voting has been allowed, using the AirBears network to vote has been prohibited. In order to vote on campus, students have had to use polling booths, 3G or 4G wireless networks to vote online.
At Wednesday’s ASUC Senate meeting, the vote on a bill allowing AirBears use during the election was split along party lines, with all six CalSERVE senators in opposition and all 11 Student Action senators in favor. The third-party and independent senators all voted in favor of the bill.
“When it comes down to the election bylaw decisions, it is very clear that partisan divides still exist,” said SQUELCH! Senator Noah Ickowitz. “What’s more important is making a transparent election process, not just winning.”
CalSERVE senators said AirBears access would increase opportunities for cheating during elections, while Student Action senators said it would increase accessibility and voter turnout.
According to the ASUC bylaws, campaigning is not allowed within 20 feet of a polling location.
CalSERVE senators cited concerns that candidates would be able to cheat more easily by approaching student voters on their laptops and other electronic devices and asking for votes.
Former ASUC President Noah Stern was found guilty of violating bylaws by voting on behalf of another student on Stern’s BlackBerry during the 2010 ASUC general election.
However, Student Action senators said allowing AirBears would greatly improve accessibility and voter turnout — 44.7 percent of undergraduates voted in the last election, with 91 percent of all voters casting ballots online.
They added that if online voting is already allowed, then blocking students from using AirBears does not make sense.
“It’s somewhat hypocritical in a way to say we will take away Airbears but knowingly allow 3G to exist,” said Student Action Senator Aviv Gilboa.
CalSERVE senators argued that not many people in their communities have devices like iPhones, which would grant disproportionate voting opportunity to students who do have access to such technology.
During the meeting, the bill’s language was altered to increase the online ballot’s emphasis on preventing cheating.
Before voting online, students must check a box saying they understand their right to confidentiality and that candidates may be disqualified if they campaign to students while they are voting. An additional window will also clearly explain what constitutes cheating, according to Ickowitz.
Additionally, AirBears voting will be re-evaluated after the election, and senators will vote once again by the end of the fall 2012 semester to decide whether AirBears voting should be allowed in the future.
Courtney Moulds covers student government.