Election Rigging Means Prison for Student
Fred Gwynne as Judge Chamberlain Haller in 'My Cousin Vinny'
CREDIT: 20th Century-Fox
Election fraud is a crime, even when it happens at an academic level. After stealing more than 700 Facebook passwords in order to rig a college election, former student Matthew Weaver faces a year in prison.
Weaver's not-so-brilliant plan arose when he cast his hat in the ring as a contender for president in the student elections at California State University San Marcos, located just north of San Diego. In a scheme worthy of an actual sleazy politician, Weaver intended to take the presidency for himself and assign the two vice presidencies to his frat brothers.
In addition to the human spirit's unquenchable lust for power, Weaver had a much more earthly reason to seek election. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the presidency comes with an $8,000 stipend and the vice presidencies award $7,000 apiece. Furthermore, for an enterprising criminal, the president controls more than $300,000 in budget money.
To steal his classmates' passwords, Weaver used keyloggers: small devices that record whatever a user types, often resembling an innocuous little flash drive. Seven hundred and forty-five students gave up their Facebook passwords this way — a difficult feat for most hackers, but much easier when a large number of students share communal computers.
The election took place through Facebook. In theory, this is a good idea, as Facebook's voting system allows one vote per account, even though it has the unfortunate side effect of letting other users see who voted for each candidate.
In practice, it allowed Weaver to cast 630 votes in his own favor through various other student accounts. Of course, when students began to realize that they were unable to cast their own votes, it wasn't too hard to track the problem back to its source. [See also: 10 Worst Internet Laws In the World]
Rather than own up to his crime, Weaver elected to take advantage of compromised accounts to stage fake conversations that pinned his misdeeds on other students. He even contacted news services, claiming that he had been framed (no one fell for it).
Larry A. Burns, the judge who oversaw the case, called the cover-up a "phenomenal misjudgment." "He's on fire for this crime and then he pours gasoline on it," he said.
"If privacy is to mean anything in a digital age, it has to be protected," Burns continued. "A 12-month sentence adequately warns men and women like Weaver that they cannot hide from the consequences of their actions behind youth or privilege."
For now, the student elections have been postponed. Weaver will not be in the running this time around.