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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Student Government

Election reform passes Senate, changes to follow

Student Government Association president Cedric Bandoh said he hopes the SGA’s broken system will be fixed by the the passing of the election system bylaw reform.
Approved in the last senate meeting of the semester, the reform aims to eliminate the use of online voting, define election violations and associated penalties and establish the Election Trial Board amongst other things.

After seeing the previous two election cycles involved in scandal, Bandoh said he decided to form an election reform task force.

“You know enough was enough. We needed to overhaul our election system and reform it from the inside out,” Bandoh said.

The task force reportedly spent hours researching and looking at election systems adopted by other schools in order to find a better system that gave every student a fair and equal opportunity to vote, Bandoh said.

One of the major changes to the election system involves transitioning back to physical polling locations around campus. Despite the campus changing to online voting, Bandoh said that the number of people voting had not changed significantly.

“I looked at polling data from elections all the way back to 2004, and I noticed the needle hadn’t moved,” Bandoh said. “Voter turnout is not tied to the method of voting but how the campaign is marketed.”

Voting will now resemble the United States presidential election voting, Bandoh said.

Students will go to one of the several polling locations including Lynn B. Eusan Park, M.D. Anderson Memorial Library, Science and Engineering Research Classroom Building, Philip Guthrie Hoffman Hall, the University Center, the UC Satellite, the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center rotunda and the UH Fine Arts Building quad to cast their vote electronically. Each polling location will be run by faculty and staff volunteers.

Psychology junior Aryam Andom believes that even though this change from online voting may be less convenient, it ensures a fairer election.

“Though it may be the less practical approach, I think that having polling locations will help in reducing voter fraud,” Andom said.

All campaign volunteers must also be registered with the election commission and are required to abide by the same rules and regulations.

Bandoh said he hopes the new clarity on what the violations and penalties are will rid SGA elections of scandals and help students focus on what is important.

“The headlines should show each candidate’s position on different issues not talk about voter fraud or how they cheated,” Bandoh said.

The reform not only revamped the explanations of violations, it also shifted the responsibility of handling any complaints about the election or candidates from the election commission to the Department of Justice, which is under the leadership of the attorney general.

According to the new election bylaws, students will file complaints with the attorney general who will then decide whether the complaint has merit. If the complaint warrants a trial according to the attorney general, the Election Trial Board will hear the case.

The Election Trial Board is a new lower court of the judicial branch of SGA consisting of a panel of students whose primary purpose is to enforce SGA’s constitution and its rules and regulations.

After the Election Trial Board gives its ruling, the defense may file an appeal if it feels it’s necessary.  The appeal will then go to the Court of Appeals where a final decision will be given.

Lastly, the reform put a cap on campaign spending. Candidates for college-wide elections are allotted $200, candidates for at-large senate seats are allowed $400 and presidential and vice presidential can spend a combined $600, according to Election Rules and Regulations Bylaws.

In the case of a run-off election, an additional $75 may be spent for college-wide elections and an additional $150 for campus-wide elections, according to Election Rules and Regulations Bylaws.

If candidates wish to join together and form a party, the total expenditure limit is $2,000 for the entire party once the party consists of six members.

Bandoh expects that this reform will not only improve SGA but the campus for future students.

“We made bold moves in the changing of this system. We tried to fix it not for us, not for me but for the students,” Bandoh said. “We want to ensure a free and fair election for every student in every election.”

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