Well, that didn’t take long. After being passed at the last council meeting on August 11, the AMS’s 2010/2011 budget is already broken. Erik MacKinnon, this year’s AMS Elections Administrator, has submitted his Draft 2010/2011 Elections Budget and it’s over budget by $5,981.
One of the big omissions in the original elections budget was that it didn’t allocate any funding for the upcoming referenda in October, despite the fact that the AMS Exec were actively developing the referenda questions while simultaneously developing the budget. In other words, they didn’t plan for something they were planning.
[Side note: The point's been made that funds for the referenda were originally contained in the $21k Exec Special Projects line but that it was removed in response to council reaction (of course, the overall exec special projects amount didn't decrease as a result of its removal.) It was never clear whether that money was to be used for running the referendum, or campaigning in favour of it. If it's the former it never should have been part of the special projects budget.]
Even in the revised budget, there is $0 allocated for referenda Yes/No committee funding despite the planned referenda. The AMS must provide funding to qualified applicants so the budget could still increase considerably as a result.
What makes this even more hilarious/sad is that Erik MacKinnon is a member of budget committee, and has officially been Elections Administrator since July 14. Despite knowing that he was EA while sitting on budget committee, and boasting about how quickly he was able to generate the elections budget, it wasn’t made until after the overall budget was passed.
A new online voting system? There’s an app for that.
Another new thing in the elections budget is $10,450 devoted to “Online Elections Platform”. It looks like it may be the end of the line for the AMS-owned custom-designed elections system which was significantly compromised last year by a decidedly unsophisticated hack.
Instead, there is money set aside for the use of Simply Voting, run by a Montreal-based firm. It’s easy to see why their system would be attractive to the AMS: on its Features page the first thing it says is “Simply Voting was designed from the ground-up to eliminate the risk of electoral fraud.”
The desire for a voting system that won’t be hacked is completely understandable, however, the fix to last year’s system should easy to do (and should be cheap.) Before migrating over to Simply Voting, this fix should be investigated first. Long term, it makes infinitely more sense to make a one-time fix the system the AMS already owns, rather than migrate to a new system which will cost money to use every single time. (Not to mention, if they are going to use it for the October Referenda, that’s not currently in the budget either.)
Finally, there is also budgeted $1000 for the development of an iPad app, and $2000 to rent iPads to be placed at polling stations. Sure, it brings a cool factor, but is this really necessary?