It’s 06:45 AM in Houston. I nervously go over the logs and make sure that no errors were reported. I type in a few queries in the datastore to make sure that its state is consistent. I go over the quota and make sure the website will be able to handle the traffic influx. I look over analytics data to see the visitor flow and statistics. Its almost like being part of a startup. Entrepreneurs are anxious that their product will engage users and win the confidence of their investors. I’m anxious that my elections app will run smoothly and successfully work for the first real election that opens in 15 minutes.
About a year ago, there was a really close round of election at Brown, my residential college within Rice University. There were some inconsistencies in the number of people who voted and the number of ballots cast. Because the votes were so close between the candidates the ballots were declared spoilt and a runoff election had to be held. It highlighted some issues with the paper based system and the tediousness of manually counting ballots that were supposed to be anonymous but still fair. Phil Tarpley, who was the elections committee chair that year was the first to mention the idea of having online elections for Brown during cabinet. Last semester, Julian Cooper, the new elections committee chair approached me about making this happen. The idea was to have elections online that were simple, secure, and anonymous. A list of NetIDs would be entered in the application to restrict voting to a subset of people within Rice. At first, I was a bit reluctant to work on such an application. I wondered if all of the work would be worth the effort.