LAU democracy reported flawed lead students to boycott voting
“The information doesn’t have to be used against me, I just need privacy!”
There were complaints on campus this past week about the legitimacy of the e-voting system in LAU, from trending posters sent on social media to in-campus movements. Students critiqued not only the privacy of the system but the democracy in LAU as a whole.
During the voting day, October 4, 2019, campaign managers have gathered facing both the middle and upper gate of LAU. Each of them working for a different candidate. The campaign managers are reported to have a full list of LAU students with their respective email addresses and in some cases, their phone numbers. The campaign managers work with the supporters in-campus to solicit votes.
“2 people approached me and asked if I wanted to vote, they saw I was a smoker so they said that a candidate [Razan] will make the smoking area bigger” said Omar Fidawi, an LAU business student, “They said that if I'm on financial aid they can help me out” he reported. Although he knew they can’t do anything, he still voted for her in front of them. “I don’t really care about voting”, he argues.
Razan is a below 60 credits Adnan Kassar School of Business candidate in Beirut campus who achieved an outstanding victory, gathering 34% of total votes from her school.
Many students have reported receiving phone calls asking them to vote for a specific candidate. These acts of soliciting votes are acts of campaigning and are therefore a violation of the rules during the “Silent Period”.
“Lama ytir sotek #9ati3" [“When your voice is silenced, #Boycott”] campaign rose outside LAU’s upper gate with students condemning the university for allegedly having access to who the students vote for and are not to be trusted with the information.
“We’re doing this because when we don't vote and the percentage is less than 30% then they realize they are not serious about this” Khodor Ayash reported, one of the campaign supporters.
According to the boycotters:
- Student Council candidates don’t have the power to fulfill their promises
- The university can know who each person voted for
- Supporters pressure voters in-campus to use their phone.
- Using previous tests to bribe students
- Cases of people who didn’t vote but documented a vote. “We think people are hacking the voting system” . This is backed up by instances of students voting for other students during last year’s election
The goal of the voting campaign was not achieved, as the voting rate for this year’s election was close to 70% [4,160/5,994].
The Assistant Vice President for Information Technology Dr. Abou-Nasr has responded to the accusations of hacking saying “ this year we added the ‘Dual Factor Authentication’ to fortify the voting system” which is the process of sending a verification code as an SMS to the mobile number registered with the LAU account to continue voting.
While this is meant to ensure that the person trying to vote is the owner of the account. It does not take into consideration the external pressure on students in campus to vote for a specific candidate. According to the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections.
The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections volunteered to supervise LAU’s electoral process. The LADE released a report about the electoral and reported numerous cases where supporters took student’s phones and voted for them.
Vice President for Student Development and Enrollment Management Dr. Salem has described the voting system used in LAU as “the most sophisticated, air-tight, secure, and transparent system in Lebanon today,”
The voting website was down at 11:00 a.m. and at 2:15 p.m, the LADE reported.