Elections commissioner holds forum to discuss SGA elections process

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On Sunday night, elections commissioner Kristen Schau, sophomore in political science and communication, held an open forum to address concerns with the Student Governing Association’s election process. The meeting was held in light of issues surrounding the most recent student body presidential election.

Schau began by addressing the issue of the timing of the mandatory elections meeting.

“There’s currently an inconsistency in the statutes where it says that tabling and chalking and publicizing for the general election begins two weeks before the general election, Tuesday and Thursday two weeks prior, but then it says the mandatory meeting is one week prior,” Schau said.

Schau’s concern was that if the meeting was held one week into campaigning, a campaign may have inadequate knowledge to do the work before they start. She suggested the meeting be held two weeks prior as well.

Next, they discussed social media use. As of right now, there’s a rule that says the person who submits a campaign violation must do so within 24 hours of learning about an incident. This leads to a possible loophole.

“A large portion of the violations were in GroupMe, so we’re trying to find a way to regulate that, but it’s hard because right now we have a window for when you have to report a violation after seeing it, but we don’t know if you saw it for the first time five days after it was posted,” said Ashton Hess, sophomore in geography and history and member of the elections board.

After Mathew Orzechowski, student senator and senior in industrial engineering and political science, suggested there was no way to enforce the 24-hour rule, Schau said a requirement for explanation of how someone became aware of an incident, and when, may give incentive to follow it.

Ryan Kelly, junior in communications studies and former student body presidential candidate, brought up the fact that the elections commissioner at Kansas State University is appointed much later than at other schools.

“I think that, as SGA, university-wide we should put a lot more priority on our election system, and I don’t think that we do that,” Kelly said. “I don’t think that we do that because we appoint the elections commissioner super late when in comparison to every other position.”

Andrew Booze, sophomore in computer science and SGA intern, made a suggestion that he thinks would solve many problems with the election system: making the student body presidential election into an instant runoff voting system.

Under this system, there would only be one election instead a primary and general. The ballot would feature a list of all presidential and vice presidential candidates, Booze explained, and voters would rank them. A software would analyze the votes.

“If no candidate has 50 percent or more, then it would eliminate the candidate with the least number of first place votes, it would redistribute those votes based on those voter’s second place choices and then it would repeat that cycle until there’s a candidate that has more than 50 percent of the vote,” Booze said. “The lower-ranked candidates still have the preferences of their voters transfer to other candidates that are similar or preferred by the same voters.

related title=“After messy SGA elections, students aim to clear up regulations for the future” url=“https://www.kstatecollegian.com/2019/03/05/after-messy-sga-elections-students-aim-to-clear-up-regulations-for-the-future/“]

“You’d have room for competitiveness,” Booze said. “You wouldn’t have a situation where one candidate would get disqualified and there’d only be one candidate left, unless there’s only two candidates in the entire race. It would also probably increase turnout just because you wouldn’t have to get people to vote in two separate elections.”

On the issue of campaign violation hearings, Orzechowski suggested that the elections committee should be the only ones who submit violations, while others bring issues to their attention. This idea would be an attempt to solve the issue of someone not showing up to a hearing. Schau agreed.

“That’s kind of what I was just thinking,” Schau said. “Someone would just submit, ‘Here’s a problem we saw,’ and then it would be that person’s responsibility to say, ‘This is what statue we think it might be relevant to.’”

Next, the members of the meeting talked discussed the possibility to extending a window of time for holding a violations hearing from 48 hours to 72 hours.

“Is it better to have flexibility with your schedule and not know answers for days at a time potentially, to have a hearing later in the week, or is it better to get it done and over with, and know your answer immediately?” Orzechowski said. “I generally tend to think the second, because I would rather know.”

In response, Jansen Penny, junior in industrial engineering and student body president-elect, said preparation for a violation hearing is not a “done and quick” process.

“It’s hours of work,” Penny said. “Ali [Karamali, student body Vice President-elect] and I have failed tests because we’ve been dealing with other stuff that people don’t show up to.”

Toward the end of the forum, Schau said she doesn’t think the new rules need to be too nitty gritty, although she does want to add to the statues. The new additions would include a social media category.

“I don’t think that, necessarily, we need to make a rule for every single thing that happened, because that’s the point of the statues, that they’re big enough that we can handle things as they come up,” Schau said.

Other suggestions made at the forum included the campaigns having more regular meetings with the elections committee and the possible creation of a special committee to watch over the elections committee.

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I'm Pete Loganbill and I'm one of the assistant news editors at the Collegian. After transferring from Johnson County Community College last semester, I am now a junior in Public Relations. I believe constant communication leads to progress, no matter how difficult a comment may be for me or anyone to hear. Contact me at ploganbill@collegianmedia.com.