It all started with a simple question, “Can CWS help us build a website that our student body can use to vote with in our April elections?”
The question, posed by ASOSU Organizing Coordinator, Drew Desilet, came to CWS in mid-February. “When it came time to look at building or buying a new voting system for the student government elections, it was clear we had two options. We could choose to buy an outside product that came pre-made to someone else’s standards and needs, or we could work with our own CWS partners on campus to build us something to suit our needs.” he explains.
It should be clearly understood that the delivery of a complex, finished website or web application within a two-month timespan is a mighty tall order. Additionally, there were a few tricky specifications that the site needed to meet, one of which includes the ability to limit the voting population to a specific segment of the OSU community, namely, Corvallis campus students.
Ultimately, the answer given to ASOSU was “Yes, we can.”
It did take a few extraordinary elements to get it up and running on such a short time-line, though:
- Great customers who provided exceptionally clear specifications
- A rockstar programmer who didn’t miss a step from the beginning to the end of the project
- A diligent project manager who smoothly coordinated all those extra things that threaten to derail a web-development project
- The OSU Drupal profile, combined with the Election module, a special contributed module that can be found at drupal.org
“We’re very pleased with the way this project played out.” states Jean Waters, CWS project manager. “Using the Election module really helped us get this project up and out in such a short time. In fact, there are still some really nice features that came with it that we haven’t even had a chance to fully examine yet.”
The Election module is based on a new Drupal 7 concept known as “Entity”. This is still a fairly new concept to the Drupal team here at CWS, but team member Ricky Middaugh was up to the task. “It was a unique challenge, having to work on something in Drupal that I didn’t know a lot about.” comments Middaugh. “But I’m really pleased that we were able to provide something useful to OSU.”
And the ASOSU provisioned gift just keeps on giving, explains Jos Accapadi, Associate Director of CWS. “Thanks to ASOSU’s willingness to experiment with us, the groundwork has been done, and now we’ll be able to quickly spin up sites for other political organizations here on campus.”
Desilet agrees. “We’re already working with CWS to make system improvements for future years – mobile capability, streamlined candidate entry, candidate profile pages, and a few other minor changes – the voting system has worked out very well for our needs in the ASOSU, and it’s our hope and plan to continue using it for years to come. It’s a system other groups on the OSU campus, or really even the entire Drupal user base, can use for a voting system in the future. It would be nice to see this used across the university for any type of voting, and make it as common to ONID users as BlackBoard is now, or Gmail is to come.”
The new voting site has already passed the Primary election test, during the week of April 9th – 12th. “So far we’ve had 2,118 voters run through the system without any hiccups of which to speak. Modifications for us between our first Primary election and our General election were minor, and largely administrative based. Therefore the tool the students will use will look and feel the same as the first time they used it just weeks before, however it will work even better for us as election administrators.” says Desilet.
The site will be ready for use for the General election, starting Sunday, April 21st, at 10 p.m. and running through April 26th. Voting will be open to Corvallis campus students. To get there, just go to http://asosu.oregonstate.edu/elections and click the big vote button.