Thursday, July 18

GSA seeks to increase voter turnout


The Graduate Students Association elections are coming soon.

Elections for the offices of GSA president, internal vice president, external vice president and academic affairs vice president will take place throughout the month of April.

As the administrative body representing the almost 12,000 graduate and professional students at UCLA, GSA has positions available to any registered graduate or professional student in good standing, according to the GSA Web site.

GSA election forms must be turned in by Monday, April 6 at 5 p.m. in Kerckhoff 316 in order to secure candidacy. Potential candidates must also collect 50 signatures from students endorsing their candidacy.

“We have not received any forms, but students have expressed interest in running for all four GSA positions,” said GSA Director of Elections Cynthia Pineda Scott.

The candidates will also be required to attend the elections orientation meeting with the elections director on April 7.

Although candidates have not been officially announced, GSA President Jamal Madni and GSA Internal Vice President Ryan Roberts are seeking re-election.

“Ryan (Roberts) and I are running as part of a slate called GSA Progress,” Madni said.

Madni added that GSA Progress also includes Netta Avineri, the chair of ASUCLA Board of Directors, who is running for academic affairs vice president; and Miguel Lopez, the current vice chair of the Student Fee Advisory Committee, who is running for external vice president.

GSA election rules dictate that no campaigning shall take place until after the April 7 orientation meeting. Adhering to this restriction, Madni spoke only briefly about the goals of GSA Progress.

“The slate plans to campaign on advocating for additional graduate student funding, creating a new Bruin graduate student center, implementing a host of sustainable initiatives, and streamlining transparency and efficiency of UCLA Housing,” Madni said.

A recurring concern in past GSA elections has been the extremely low voter turnout.

“Last year, the elections board opted to make every voter a “˜winner’ by providing free coffee or soda coupons to all voters, free Baskin Robbins ice cream coupons to every 10th voter, and free iPods to three random voters,” Pineda Scott said.

But despite these efforts, only 11 percent of eligible graduate students cast their votes and less than 6 percent redeemed their coupons, Pineda Scott added.

This year, the elections director is planning a two-pronged approach in an effort to increase voter turnout.

The first plan would continue to provide students with incentives to vote.

“We’re giving away $2,000 in recession-friendly incentives, including free gas, groceries and gifts,” said Pineda Scott. “If a free cup of coffee doesn’t entice graduate students to vote online, we’re hoping a free tank of gas will.”

Second, there will be computer terminals throughout campus to further entice students to cast their ballots.

“The idea behind the mobile voting booths is to make the voting process as convenient as possible,” Pineda Scott said.

“We’re hoping the voting booths will serve as a visual reminder for graduate students to cast their vote as they walk over to grab lunch.”

Voting begins at noon on MyUCLA and will run April 14-21, according to the official rules of the 2009 GSA elections.

Results will be announced on April 22.

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