SU election rules committee proposes removing incumbent tags on ballots for upcoming election

Zachary Berman | Contributing Reporter

A resolution to remove incumbent tags on all Student Union election ballots was proposed at the Student Union Senate and Treasury meetings Tuesday, Oct. 10.

This resolution, proposed by SU’s Election Rules Focus Committee, aims to create a fairer election process by removing incumbent tags. If it passes, the word “incumbent” will no longer appear next to the name of a candidate running for reelection to an SU position.

The proposal will be discussed further and voted on after fall break, on Tuesday, Oct. 24. In order to pass, the resolution will need a simple majority (over 50 percent) from both the Senate and Treasury.

According to SU Election Commissioner and freshman Steven Kish, the change, if passed, will help new candidates stay on an equal playing field with incumbents.

“The issue that most people seem to have with incumbent tags is that if someone is basically voting without paying too much attention to campaigning, they’re going to go onto the ballot and check the few people they know from name recognition,” Kish said.

Additionally, Kish believes this proposal will still allow incumbents with name recognition and experience to benefit from these factors in the election process.

“[We would like to] let candidates write their incumbent status in the candidate statement however they’d like to,” Kish said. “That solution actually puts all the names on the ballot onto an equal playing field, [as well as] gives incumbent candidates the right to say that they have that experience because that should mean something on the ballot, but not make it hugely unfair for people trying to get seats for the first time.”

According to junior Joey Vettiankal, an SU senator, this proposal will allow students who truly want to become more involved in representing the student body the opportunity to do so.

“If you look at past election results, there have been very few non-incumbents who have broken through to beat incumbents. What I’m hoping this will do is put everyone on an equal playing field,” Vettiankal said. “Not only are we hopefully going to get students who aren’t daunted by the difficulty of running against incumbents, but I also hope that it’ll lead to more accountability on the incumbent side.”

The Election Rules Focus Committee, consisting of Kish; Vettiankal; Chief Justice of Constitutional Council and senior Tobi Henzer; SU Vice President of Programming and junior Kyle Jeter; and sophomore Treasury representative Shelly Gupta, spent multiple hours debating and proposing this resolution. Kish explained that this proposal was mainly sparked by student feedback.

“SU has lately been hearing a lot of feedback about representation. A lot of students don’t necessarily feel like the people in SU always represent their interests. That’s something that we want to give people the tools to change,” Kish said.

At Tuesday evening’s Senate meeting, close to 10 students were in attendance, many of them sharing their opinions and voicing concerns to the Election Rules Focus Committee and SU Senate.

“From what we saw with people mobilizing and coming out, [Tuesday’s Senate meeting] shows that this is an issue that a lot of the Wash. U. students care about,” Vettiankal said.

Vettiankal explained that this proposal also aims to hold senators more accountable in representing the student population.

“I think we [senators] want to be voted for not based on a word like ‘incumbent,’ but rather based on the quality of the work we do to better the student experience. But [if the proposal does not pass,] it’s not something we can give up on. It’s very apparent that we will continue this discussion and work towards achieving this,” Vettiankal said.

Both Kish and Vettiankal are hopeful that, even if the proposal does not pass due to many senators’ uncertainty on the topic, SU can still continue their efforts to represent the student body more fairly.

“I think this will be a fantastic opportunity for the Senate and Treasury to take a great step forward in terms of bringing Student Union closer to the student body,” Kish said.