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Sunday, October 2, 2022

Opinion

SGA needs more democracy to be successful


UH Student Government Association needs more democracy

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

College is supposed to be a place of innovation and bold ideas that will go on to revolutionize society. Yet, in terms of how UH organizes its Student Government Association, it is anything but innovative. SGA needs to become more democratic if it wants to have a successful impact on campus.

As a new administration comes into SGA, there is an opportunity to change this. It’s time for the University to start leading the way in how it includes the student body in the decision-making process. It must start adopting reforms that will make SGA a more effective and democratic body in the future.

The majority of principal focus should be fixing the broken election process. In this past election, only 2,028 students voted, a figure which is 25 percent lower than the turnout in 2020 and a whopping 45 percent lower than in 2018.

With a student body the size of over 47,000, turnout this incredibly low is absolutely unacceptable. 

To make the lack of democracy worse, these votes were gathered and tabulated by a process called Ranked Choice Voting which, while not the worst voting system, has many flaws.

The low turnout indicates the students are massively uninformed. A few policy upgrades would go a long way to fix these issues. 

Namely, there needs to be a far greater distribution of informational material during election periods.

Election week should come with everything from banners in the Student Centers, to email notifications, to the videoing and wide-scale sharing of the presidential debate. This shockingly has not happened since 2016. Tabling efforts also need to be expanded from the very limited scope to cover more locations during more times. 

Following this, an easy way to improve voter education would be to require candidates to submit a brief summary of their case to voters. These summaries could then be made easily accessible in the voting portal. With more information, students will be better equipped to make a choice that actually represents their beliefs and values.

Finally, it’s time to switch ballots to using Score Than Automatic Run-off voting, often referred to as STAR Voting. In this type of voting system, students would be asked to give each candidate a zero to five score based on how much they like those running.

Instead of needing to rank a dozen or so candidates, as it is required now, voters will be able to think about their opinion of each candidate in isolation. This would be beneficial since the current ranked-choice ballots benefit candidates situated at the top, said recently elected SGA President Joshua Martin. 

“It can be detrimental, especially in Senate races,” Martin said. “People will support individual parties and vote for the name at the top of the ballot. (It is) extremely unfair in my opinion.” 

A STAR system would eliminate this unfair advantage and allow students to give multiple candidates the same score if they so desired.

In addition, STAR would produce results that are far easier for the election commission to calculate, far less likely to fall prey to strategic voting and far more representative of the genuine preferences of students.

With these reforms, SGA could begin to regain its legitimacy as a body that genuinely represents UH’s diverse population. With enough political will, it could move on to consider even more ambitious democratic reforms that would truly prepare it for future success. 

Micah Erfan is an economics freshman who can be reached at [email protected]

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