Western student election hacked, ballots scrapped | Print |
Written by Alexander Leach   
Thursday, 16 February 2012 13:22

Western University’s student government election has been postponed until after Reading Week, following the hacking of the election portal, which shifted the focus from presidential candidates to pop stars.


Western University's new election will occur Feb. 29 to March 1, after a week-long campaign blackout. COURTESY Balcer, Wikimedia Commons

“Western University and the University Students Council (USC) have announced that the 2012 USC Elections are deemed invalid and that voting has been halted,“ an announcement on the University Student’s Council website said.

“A decision was made after Western’s ITS department had determined that the USC elections portal, located on the Western server, was compromised.”

The elections website was hacked on Feb. 15, as votes were coming in.

The University Student Council has declared a campaign blackout until Feb. 29th, requiring that election signs be removed and ‘all physical campaigning’ be halted until the resumption of voting.

Online information is only partially blocked, and provisions are made for materials already distributed to supporters.

“We wanted to give candidates a week to relax,” said Andrew Forgione, president of the USC, adding that the IST team is also securing the server.

Forgione told thedailyplanet.com that campus police are involved.

“There are ways to locate the student,” he said. “They’re really talented at Western, so they’ll get to the bottom of it.”

“Welcome to the Justin Bieber Hairstyle vote 2012” was inserted into the election portal, where students could log in and vote online. “Justin Bieber is the hero of UWO. Also, Selena Gomez is phenomenal.”

The third message changed ‘elections’ to ‘erections’.

“It’s been a hectic 22 hours,” Eliot Hong, communications officer for the USC, told thedailyplanet.com.

Western has used online ballots for five years, in order to improve voter turnout.

“We wanted to get a higher voter turnout. Students can vote from home; they can vote from anywhere in the world if they want to.”

“Five years ago, we had 4,000 - 5,000 votes, now we have 10,000."

Forgione said that roughly 10,200 votes were thrown out, because they can’t verify whether they were tampered with or not.

He said that hacking attempts like this have never happened before.

He said that candidates were “initially very shocked. There were  lot of emotions flying around.”

Candidates were quick to express optimism at the postponement, and encouragement to their supporters.

“I just wanted to say thank you to the elections committee and the entire USC for being so great throughout this situation,” Logan Ross, a candidate for the election, said on Twitter.

“Thanks everyone for your support. Though we’ve been silenced today, we’ll come back even stronger,” said Jon Silver, another candidate.

“Round 2, bring it. We’ll make this right.”

Bieber did not respond to requests from thedailyplanet.com for comment.

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