The 2002 APS general election was the second year that the Society offered members the option of voting electronically, with 87.9% of those voting opting for the electronic method. Several members also took the opportunity to offer their comments on the electronic voting process. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with members praising the ease and convenience of electronic voting, and noting the particular benefit to overseas members and those on sabbatical leave.
A few people experienced technical difficulties in navigating the site, and some had trouble remembering their assigned ID codes, but most echoed the sentiments of one commentator who observed, "This process is much faster and allows those of us who find ourselves in a hectic, fast-paced environment to respond to the election with minimal voting time." (Or, as one vernacularly inclined member phrased it: "Like, totally awesome, dude!")
There were some suggestions for improvement. Several people decried the lack of descriptions on the site for each of the positions up for election, and one member suggested adding streaming audio files of all candidates discussing their respective mission statements and priorities for the Society.
Concern about on-line security was also a major issue, and several members objected to the use of "cookies" in the electronic voting process.
Ken Cole, the APS administrative staff member in charge of organizing the election process, reports that the cookies used in the process were temporary and used only to improve online security by ensuring that votes were being cast from the same computer on which the login was authorized. Once voting was completed and the user had left the secured Website, the cookies were deleted.
The Society hopes that the availability of electronic voting will lead to much wider participation by APS members in the election process, although to date the gains have been modest. There was a total of 10,638 ballots cast out of a possible 42,701 members eligible to vote, which translated into 24.9% ballots returned, up slightly from last year's 23%. But at least one member admitted, "I may not have voted but for this convenience," while another concluded, "Now there is no excuse for not voting."
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Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette