SGA Makes Changes to Student Voting Procedures, Campaign Finance

Photo of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception taken by Sean Newhouse

Emma Kapp 
News Staff Writer

The Student Government Association (SGA) passed two pieces of legislation at its Jan. 26 session that made some changes to how business is conducted.

The first bill passed by the Senate involved procedural changes to SGA elections. After last year’s close presidential race, senators agreed something needed to be done.

“Last year’s SGA election was highly contested, and when the election results were published, neither one of the top two candidates earned a majority of the votes,” senior senator Cierra Stewart said. “It is our duty to consider the needs and concerns of all students.”

To address voting procedures, SGA decided to implement ranked-choice voting. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, ranked-choice voting is a system in which voters rank their preferences instead of choosing just one candidate. Ballots are counted first by tallying each voter’s number one preference.

If no candidate receives 50 percent or more in the first round of voting, the candidate with the fewest number of votes is eliminated and the votes are counted again. In case a voter’s first preference of candidate was eliminated, that vote is given to the voter’s second choice candidate. This process of elimination continues until one candidate reaches 50 percent.

Junior senator Claire Lonneman was in favor of trying out this new system after hearing from several administrators and students.

“I think it makes the election more equitable and is more representative of what students want,” she said.

Junior senator Andrew Hubert agreed and hopes students take the opportunity to learn more about the candidates under this new system of voting.

“Your vote really makes a difference,” he said. “It’s important to be informed about each candidate.”

SGA will try the ranked-choice voting system in this spring’s presidential and vice presidential election. If all goes well, SGA will look to expand the use of ranked-choice voting into elections for other positions.

See also- Student Government President Gives Semester Progress Report, Praises Work Done by Student Representatives

Another change SGA made in terms of elections is the amount of money given to candidates running for office.

According to the updated SGA Elections Handbook, the organization will fund up to $500 for presidential tickets. This is a reduction from $650 candidates were allotted, per the previous SGA Elections Handbook. Candidates can also spend up to $100 of their own money for campaign purposes. This change drew a mixed reaction from SGA officials.

“The passing of this particular piece of legislation eliminated socio-economic barriers for members of the UD community that may be thinking of running for SGA president and vice president,” said president Bryan Borodkin. However, sophomore senator Tongyu Guo disagreed.

“If six people are running for president, it will be $3000,” he reasoned. “In my opinion, this is a waste of the SGA budget.”

Despite some disagreement, the bill that included these changes passed 10-6-0.

The second piece of legislation passed by the Senate involved the issue of transparency. Stewart served as the sponsor of this bill aimed at making SGA more accessible to the greater student population. She included measures like regularly updating the SGA website on 1850 and keeping a record of how senators vote on legislation.

Hubert successfully motioned to eliminate the section requiring a voting record. He reasoned that keeping a record may be detrimental to those senators who want to run for public office one day.

“Most of us won’t believe the same things we do at 20 or 21 that we will as adults,” Hubert said. “We’re all still learning. Who knows how this could be used against us in the future?”

Lonneman and Guo agreed with Hubert’s assessment of the situation. SGA advisers also supported this move, according to Lonneman and Hubert. However, Stewart was disappointed by this motion.

“I would hope that my beliefs wouldn’t change radically from now until when I eventually run for office, but if someone were to confront me down the line about the votes I made during my time in SGA, I believe I would have definitive answers for them,” she said. “I don’t feel the need to shy away from my own beliefs now, so I don’t think I would do so in the future either.”

Borodkin also expressed disappointment.

“In the interest of increased transparency, I think that this would have benefited the UD student body and would have called senators to more critically think about the messages that their individual votes may send,” he shared. “That said, I also understand valid concerns raised by members of the Senate.”

The transparency bill passed 15-0-0.

SGA meets on Sundays at 6 p.m. in KU Ballroom. For more information, visit SGA’s 1850 page or follow @ud_sga on Twitter and Instagram.

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