Google Form implemented for greater election security


Matt Petres

Students used a Google form to vote May 1 because of vote changes on the original election April 28. (photo illustration)

Louis Auxenfans, News Editor

Unauthorized vote changes in the election database during the Student Council election April 28 caused the results to be set aside and a new election held on May 1.  

Around lunchtime on April 28, Jeffrey Huang, one of Student Council’s two directors of student technology services, noticed irregularities in the voting database but there were no vote changes, so they thought little of it, Jeffrey said. Then, during 8th period, there were huge concentrated bursts of vote changes which favored specific candidates over others, which Jeffrey said he deduced was caused by a script. 

That afternoon, Student Council and Dean of Students Ana Campos also received reports from multiple students that their original, intended vote was different from what was recorded, which could be verified by the database.  

Upon discovering these changes, Student Council leaders knew they would have to run a new election. 

“At that point, we realized that the election basically lacked integrity at that point, because we couldn’t call an election obviously based on fraudulent voting and vote changes,” Jeffrey said.

Jeffrey acknowledged that he and Asher Grossman, the other student technology director, did not set up strong security for the voting database. They never thought someone would hack the database to change votes, so they focused on developing other features of the website. 

For the May 1 election, Google Forms was used instead of voting on the Student Council website because of the higher level of security. Despite the higher security, Google Forms are more difficult to configure for ranked-choice voting. 

All-School President Fermi Boonstra said that students should have confidence in the results of the new election because of the measures Student Council took.  

“We took all the measures we could to make sure it was the most fair and secure,” Fermi said in an interview. “The Google Form is fairly impenetrable, so the votes themselves are safe. And we’re not using the website, obviously, so we don’t have the same issue.” 

In addition, Fermi said that they kept the names of the script-preferred candidates under wraps and did not allow candidates to campaign over the weekend in order to prevent election influence over the weekend.

For the next election, Student Council still plans to use its website for voting and work on identifying and patching its vulnerabilities.

“The amount of time we’ve had, which was essentially two days to create security roles, wasn’t enough for us since we’ve basically never done security before,” Jeffrey said. “And a lot of it is also a learning process.”