Student government elections officials approved revised election codes and modifications to the election calendar in hopes to increase engagement and accessibility.
Undergraduate Students Association Council Election Board Chair Kyana Shajari presented revised election codes and the fall special election calendar to the council Wednesday for approval. Major changes to the codes include an increase in the amount of required signatures to declare candidacy from 75 to 100, and a decrease in maximum spending from $600 to $450 for a candidate’s total campaign cost. As usual, there is no requirement to reach that maximum.
The council unanimously voted to approve both.
USAC President Robert Watson said he thinks lowering the maximum spending limit could help make the election more equitable for students who cannot afford to spend $600 out of pocket for an election.
Candidates have historically paid for their campaigns entirely out of pocket, Watson said. Last year’s candidates were the first to receive reimbursements for their expenses, but were only paid about three months after the election, he added.
However, Watson said the amount candidates are reimbursed depends on how many people ran and how much the election board can pay them back.
“The problem still, though is about affordability, is some people just don’t have $600 to put down up front even if they’re getting paid back later on,” Watson said.
Shajari said she also thinks lowering the spending limit will make the election more inclusive and take away any pressure potential candidates may feel to spend the full $600.
Since Shajari lowered the spending limit, she said she wanted to find a way to still motivate candidates to promote their campaign and the election, which she did by increasing the minimum amount of signatures one needs to declare candidacy from 75 to 100.
“That’s 25 more people that know about the elections per however many candidates run, so if I can increase the awareness on campus through the candidates themselves collecting signatures, I will,” Shajari said.
In addition to changes to the election codes, the fall special election calendar will also deviate from the standard election process in hopes to increase student participation and fill the vacant seats quickly.
Since not enough candidates ran in the 2018-2019 election to fill council seats, two general representative seats as well as the Financial Supports commission seat will have to be filled in the fall special election.
Council elections are typically at the end of the year and candidates are able to run for all positions on the council. Candidates typically fill out a candidate packet, collect signatures and attend a candidate orientation, a meet-the-candidates event, an endorsement hearing and a debate.
This year however, the election board will combine the meet-the-candidates event, the endorsement hearing and the debate into one event in an attempt to save time.
USAC Academic Affairs Commissioner Naomi Riley advocated for the restructuring of these events at the Wednesday meeting so that the event could serve multiple purposes, such as introducing candidates and their platforms to potential voters.
Watson said he likes the idea of combining the events into one big event so that it can be more publicized and engaging for students who are not typically involved in the election process.
“I think Bruins who aren’t engaged directly with the election process should want to go and see their student government representatives who spend a lot of their student fees,” Watson said.
USAC officials manage a multimillion dollar budget derived largely from student fees. The 2019-2020 budget allocated over $8 million toward campus programming, commissions and student government offices.
The fall special election season will begin Sept. 23 and continue throughout the month of October. Results are scheduled to be announced Oct. 31.