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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Activities & Organizations

What to expect from an SGA election season


With SGA elections approaching next month, SGA President Allison Lawrence (Right) and Election Commissioner Beka Harricharran dive deep into what students and candidates can expect from the process. | Lino Sandil/The Cougar

Knock knock, it’s election o’ clock.

Election season is just around the corner for SGA as Jan. 31 is the registration deadline for candidate hopefuls and proper campaigning set to begin Feb. 4.

The average student, however, might not know what any of this means, and so the Cougar sat down with SGA President Allison Lawrence and Election Commissioner Beka Harricharran to talk through what campaign season looks like.

“(Campaigning) is an extremely rewarding process,” Lawrence said. “You learn so much about yourself, about the university and about the people around you.

This year’s voting is open from Feb. 20 – 26. That week is the most important for campaigns, according to Lawrence.

“Essentially, campaigning is preparing for seven very crucial days,” Lawrence said.  “Even before the voting opened, though, we were talking to students every day in about a month process.”

Last year, the presidential debate was held the day before voting opened, which kicked off the campaigning for Lawrence.

“There were a lot of high emotions. My team did twelve to thirteen hours on the ground talking to students,” Lawrence said. “And when no one was left on campus, we called students.”

To Lawrence, the process was stressful and strenuous, but also rich and fun. Harricharran said that from the commissioner’s perspective, the process was “chaos.”

“Chaos leading up to, chaos during, chaos after,” Harricharran said. “But seeing people come together as a unit for something they’re very passionate about is exciting.”

Harricharran said that last year’s turnout was a little low, considering the work the candidates put in to secure votes.

Part of that might come from students not knowing the role SGA plays on campus, but also had to do with Murphy’s Law (what can go wrong, will go wrong).

“It rained every day on campus during voting week,” Lawrence said. “And we weren’t allowed to campaign in some buildings we were traditionally allowed to campaign in.”

The Student Centers, Harricharran said, no longer allowed candidates to campaign in their spaces after someone complained to the director. Going forward, SC South and North won’t allow campaigning.

‘Why are you doing this?’

SGA hopefuls can formally register on the website under the elections tab.

If a student wants to get involved in SGA and has their eye on the presidential office, Harricharran recommended first getting involved by showing up to the senate meetings and joining a committee.

“It’s hard to run when you don’t have a community behind you,” Harricharran said. “You need to build your knowledge and the base of people you know so you can run a successful campaign.”

Allison said she spent months putting together her campaign, talking to student leaders, and perfecting her platform. With all the pitfalls and the stress, students may wonder why anyone would pursue an SGA office.

“Something many voters asked me through the seven days was, ‘why are you doing this?'” Lawrence said. “And my answer was, ‘I genuinely care about what I want to do.’ Especially after putting your heart into this day after day, you learn and gain so much through the process.”

The other end of the ballot

What can the students, the voter base, expect from campaign season, even if they aren’t involved in SGA at all?

“Expect to be handed many flyers, multiple from the same party,” Harricharran said.

Harricharran also said that students think SGA doesn’t really do anything, but she wanted to dispel that notion.

“We built the stadium,” Harricharran said. “SGA does have a lot of influence.”

SGA is also the birth place of UH’s current grade exclusion policy.

“Just be patient with it, and do your research,” Harricharran said. “Just like any other election.”

Voting opens on Feb. 20 for the next elections and can be accessed on the Get Involved tab in Access UH.

“We have ranked choice voting this year,” Harricharran said. “You rank your candidates in order of preference.”

As for Lawrence, she had a simple message for voters this year.

“Be nice to the people campaigning. They’re students, just like you,” she said. “Please recycle any flyers you get, instead of throwing them on the ground.”

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