Online Voting Slows Police Union Results

Posted September 17, 2007 at 6:41pm

A new online voting system has delayed the results of a Capitol Police union election and sparked several ethical complaints, leaving some officers to question the effectiveness of the new system.

It has been almost three weeks since police officers voted for the executive board of the Capitol Police Labor Committee, a union of about 900 officers. But in that time, only three of the eight positions have been filled, and an investigating committee is still deliberating over the results of the five remaining posts.

Union officials say the investigation has been hampered by a lack of time — officers must work on their off-hours — and the fact that an online voting system has never before been used for a full Capitol Police union election.

Some officers have complained that without a hard-copy paper ballot, it would be impossible to verify the actual results.

Police union elections used to be conducted with a cardboard box and paper ballots, with volunteers then bringing the ballots to roll calls across the Capitol. But getting enough volunteers to reach all members was a struggle, so about 18 months ago the union hired the company Votenet Solutions to take the election online.

According to Votenet’s Web site, the election software prevents voters from voting more than once and protects any tampering through encryption security. Organizations set up the elections themselves, and it is all done on a personalized, secure Web site. The company could not be reached for comment.

The election, which ended Aug. 30, marked the first time officers voted for a full ballot through the Internet. Now, several candidates have filed complaints over possible unethical conduct in the elections, and an investigation into those complaints has delayed the new executive board from taking over.

“I know a lot of the members are unhappy with the way it’s going just because it’s taking so long,” said Matt Tighe, who moved into his new position as Capitol Police Labor Committee chairman last week. Tighe said he couldn’t comment on the exact nature of the complaints because he is not involved in the investigation.

Since Tighe ran unopposed for the position, the union’s former executive board allowed him to officially fill the seat. Secretary Glynis Senn and Recording Secretary Brian Kibala also ran unopposed and took their seats last week as well.

But positions with two or more candidates won’t be filled until an investigating committee, led by former Chairman J. Creekmur, has finished looking into the complaints. That process has been delayed because committee members can’t work on such internal business while on the clock, and they have been squeezing the investigation into their off-hours, Tighe said.

“There’s no way to speed it up,” he said. “You can’t go and ask guys to take their own vacation time.”

Some officers said the delayed election results didn’t bother them — “We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” said one — but others expressed apprehension over a new system that could allow candidates to pressure peers into voting in front of them, at any computer.

Complaints about the process have alerted union officials to what needs to be tweaked or investigated, Tighe said. This time, officers were able to vote over several days at any computer — a method that may need to be changed, he said.

“It’s a very good system,” he said, but “this has been a learning experience about what needs to be done.”