SGA finds ways to inform
The Student Government Association election commission is encouraging students to vote in elections for the next administration that begin today and end Friday.
This election year may prove important considering the issues facing the University such as the looming budget cuts to state funding.
“It’s really important for students to voice their opinions on campus,” said Mila Clarke, SGA’s director of public relations. “SGA represents every single student on campus.”
“Just by voting, you’re picking the person that will represent you among administration in meetings, across the state when we work with other SGAs and law makers who pass laws that benefit education,” Clarke said.
Candidates running for the position of SGA president are Jared Gogets, Michael Harding and Michael McHugh.
At-large positions and representatives for each college and department are also on the ballot.
The undergraduate and graduate at-large members deal with university-wide issues such as parking and tuition. College representatives handle issues with in their respective colleges.
Students are able to cast one vote in an online ballot using their student identification number. The online ballot allows students the ability to vote from anywhere.
If a run off occurs, students may vote again that next week when runoffs are held.
To encourage more students to vote, SGA Elections Commissioner Katie Kornahrens said they are trying a more hands-on approach.
“We have several plans as far as marketing,” Kornahrens said. “We’re doing a very large Facebook campaign, it’s the easiest way to contact students.”
E-mails, Kohnahrens said, are overlooked.
“We’re going to be posting pretty heavily on Facebook with our events, as well as the SGA website. We will have as much information about the candidates and where to vote.”
SGA will also have information on campus in the form of fliers, post cards, yard signs and banners to try and get the word for the election out.
“The election commissioners, as well as the candidates, will be out there talking to the students and actually engaging them so they will know about the election and hopefully get them to vote,” Kornahrens said.
Many students do not vote because of lack of knowledge, Clarke said. This year, more PR involvement will help get the word around campus.
Last year, 3,576 students voted, which is comparable to other universities in Texas, Kornahrens said.
“We’re aiming for more than that this year,” Kornahrens said. “Every year we want to increase the amount of student turn out. It’s important that students vote this year.”
The issues facing students this election year are the budget cuts and the recent bills in the Texas Legislature that would allow students to carry concealed weapons on campus.
“The upcoming election is really crucial for students,” current President Prince Wilson said. “It’s important that they elect the right people. When I leave office, I’m leaving a lot of responsibility, especially about the budget cuts.
“The new administration will have a lot of influence. They’ll have to step forward just like we are doing now. They will have to step forward for the students,” Wilson said. “The transition is not going to be like previous years. It’s going to be really crucial and it’s up to the students to elect the right people that will stand up for them and do what the (SGA) president is supposed to do.”
Students were able to learn more about the presidential candidates in a debate that took place on Wednesday.
Candidates can receive endorsements from organization, faculty and staff members in order to get their name out to the students. They cannot get endorsements from higher-level administrators or fee-dependent student organizations.
There are rules that candidates must follow, and to ensure that they do so, there is a form online for candidates who break those rules. A candidate can be reported if they are seen violating the election code by filling out a complaint form and turning it in to the elections commission, Clarke said.
Violations include posting and campaigning in the wrong area and having non-approved campaign materials.
Candidates cannot campaign inside the library, computer labs, dorms or near polling areas.
Candidates are punished depending on their violation of the election code. Punishments for violations include bans on campaigning time and disqualifications based on the severity of the violation.
A runoff will occur after general elections end if the presidential, vice presidential or at-large candidates do not receive more than a half of the votes required to win.
The top two candidates will have a secondary run off from March 7 to March 10.
Barring a runoff, a ceremony at noon on March 4 will be held to announce election winners.
More information on the election can be found on SGA’s website sga.uh.edu.