SU enacts some of its proposed election reforms

| News Staff
Election Co-Commisioner Colin Towery speaks on Student Union election reforms at the Oct. 7 Senate meeting. (Matt Mitgang| Student Life)

Election Co-Commisioner Colin Towery speaks on Student Union election reforms at the Oct. 7 Senate meeting. (Matt Mitgang| Student Life)

Student Union Senate and Treasury voted on several SU election reforms, which were proposed by the election commissioners. The reforms aim to make elections more competitive, open and fair. Proposals ranged from new systems of voting to more minute details about qualifications and definitions of positions.

Turnout in the past few elections has increased, but SU wants to increase participation even further. Two years ago, 479 members of the student body voted in the fall election, while last fall there were 1,368 voters.

There have been no major reforms to the SU elections process since 2003, when the SU Constitution was last approved.
Not all of the proposed legislation was passed, but there were a few constitutional changes that, having been passed by both Senate and Treasury, will appear on the ballot this fall. These changes must be ratified by two-thirds of voters. The student body votes only on constitutional changes, not on SU statute changes.

Proposed constitutional changes on fall ballot:

Block funding: Currently, there is no constitutional definition for block funding, a process that allows student groups or initiatives to apply for a block allocation on the annual budget in order to bypass the SU student group budgeting process. The proposed definition stipulates that students can apply for block funding during spring elections by presenting a petition signed by 15 percent of constituents to the election commissioner. The student body will need to approve the petition with a two-thirds vote.

School councils’ executives will not be defined as SU officers. The reasoning behind this change is to allow students from smaller schools, such as art and architecture, which have a harder time filling seats in SU, to fill seats in both SU and their school councils. Members of Treasury committees who are not Treasury representatives will also be defined as SU officers.

Senate and Treasury members do not need to complete a full term. The proposed constitutional change removes the requirement for senators to be eligible to complete a full term (one year). The proposed statute changes require candidates for legislative office to be available to complete at least one academic semester. This allows students to run in an election even if they intend to go abroad or if they are graduating after the first semester of their term.

Approved changes that will not appear on fall ballot:

The Election Commission will be approved no later than eight weeks after the first day of classes. This was changed from four weeks to allow more time for recruitment. The Election Commission will also host a forum and serve on the Public Relations and Recruitment and Retention Committees.
Write-in candidates must obtain at least 5 percent of the votes of the top vote-getter. Candidates for single-seat positions, such as executive officers, must get 10 percent.

Not approved:

Instant-runoff voting for executive offices and single-transferable voting for legislative offices would require voters to rank the candidates in order of preference. In instant-runoff voting, those whose first-choice candidate received the fewest votes would have their votes transferred to their next choice candidate. In this way, each person would get one vote, and preferences could be more closely followed. Senior Colin Towery, election co-commissioner, came up with the idea after this fall’s Freshman Class Council elections. The winning slate received just 32 percent of the vote, meaning 68 percent of the freshmen did not support the slate.
Senate and Treasury also discussed whether students should be allowed to run for office from abroad, whether candidates could run for multiple offices, and whether Treasury representatives should be elected in the fall.

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