The University of Rhode Island’s Student Senate elections will be held online for the first time in Senate history this spring. 

While previous elections took place in-person at the Memorial Union, this year’s elections will be held through a Campus Labs website which all URI students will gain access to using their e-Campus username and Sakai password. Student Senate is currently testing out this software that they purchased. They plan on sending an email to the entire student body with information so they will be able to vote on the specified days. Elections take place on Feb. 26 and 27.

Student Senate Director of Information John Morabito has been a part of the organization for all four years that he has been at the University. According to Morabito, the Senate has discussed the idea of switching to online voting many times in the past.

“It wasn’t until we actually sat down and looked into it that we found this service called Campus Labs and realized that it was a feasible idea,” Morabito said.

However, the software is not just for voting in elections; Morabito’s goal is to have other student organizations use it to help them with any administrative work they need to get done. Student Senate External Chair Allison Lantagne has the same hopes for the software.

“Down the pipeline, Campus Labs will be used for student organization re-recognition as well as budgeting, once we, as a campus, are more comfortable with it,” Lantagne said.

The first test of the software has been through the Senate’s usage of it. The organization will try it out for themselves with the hope to use it among others in the future. The website, uri.campuslabs.com/engage, has been set up and is available to all students to use, but Student Senate is still developing the site. The first campus-wide usage of the software will be through the upcoming elections at the end of the month.

Morabito believes that online elections will help reach a larger number of students who may not be in the Memorial Union on days for voting, as well as students who don’t feel comfortable voting in public. He also said that this will reduce time and effort from the Student Senate, who typically count the ballots themselves. In-person vote counting leaves space for human error and leads to a gap in time between the actual election and results being posted. Both of these concerns will be lessened by the software.

As Director of Information, Morabito also serves as Speaker of Elections, meaning he is the head of Student Senate’s election committee.

“I’m currently [working] with the election committee focusing on how to get it out there when it’s ready and how to publicize it and make the most use out of it,” Morabito said. “I like to think that there will be a larger turnout for this [election].”

However, he believes that even if there isn’t a larger voter turnout, Campus Labs will still be beneficial to Student Senate and the student body at large due to the administrative and structural resources it will provide.

“What we want to do is we want to grow with this,” Morabito said. “We want to have constant communication with the students.”

Lantagne knows how valuable accessibility is for the student body, which is the purpose of having a website instead of in-person services. The focus currently is on the election, but alongside Morabito, she’s looking towards the future.

“I think the turnout numbers for this election will be good to help us gauge people’s comfort with an online software,” Lantagne said, “And to see what the Student Senate will need to do to make sure we’re reaching all eligible voters and making sure everyone is comfortable with the online platform.”