By Simon Isham–
For the first time in the U of L Student Government Association’s history, the winners have been decided before the voting has even started.
Only one candidate campaigned for each of the 14 available offices during this general election cycle, meaning that every candidate essentially wins by default. SGA Chief Justice Brandon McReynolds, who has run the elections for the past three years, said that voting will still be held Feb. 10 through 12, as originally scheduled, and that he will continue to push all candidates to campaign as normal, despite knowing that they have already won.
The SGA President oversees a $1 million budget which is taken out of student tuition, sits on the university’s Board of Trustees and represents the interests of the students body to all university administrators. The college-specific representatives appropriate the $1 million.
Applications were due at noon on Jan. 24. Last year, three slates ran for the “top four” positions of president, executive VP, academic VP and services VP — an all-time high for candidate registration. In contrast, this year, only one slate ran.
When asked how he thought potential candidates could be encouraged to register, McReynolds said, “I think students need to be more informed about the actual processes of what goes on in SGA, and (SGA) need to help develop leadership skills in the youngest Cardinals. If we had more people with leadership experience, then we would have a larger pool.
“Task Force Freshmen and Freshmen Lead are great programs that get around 65 to 70 freshman students per year. But then, sometimes it’s the handoff: how do you get involved beyond that, how do we create leaders at the sophomore level and above? … It’s great to be involved at a club-level, but there are opportunities within student government to be involved at a higher level.”
Voter turnout has also been a reported problem, with roughly 10 percent of the university submitting ballots last year.
McReynolds said he thinks the problems might be linked. “It’s a general lack of knowledge about student government,” he said. “We need to enhance that, with all student groups talking with their members about what SGA does.”
Write-in votes will not be an option in this election, and that the ULink infrastructure that serves as the voting system may not allow write-in entries. McReynolds said that the idea had been mentioned in the past, but that the SGA adviser, Dean of Students Michael Mardis, had never foreseen a circumstance like this one.
For the past two years, SGA election results have been stalled in court, as students from other slates presented violations of campaign rules by other slates. While McReynolds does not believe that this will happen again this year, he said that anyone who sees what might be considered a breach of policy is free to contact him personally at [email protected]
Students may also contact Compliance Officer Marianna Michael at [email protected] The compliance officer position was created last year because of the number of cases that appeared before the court. The typical penalty for slates or candidates found in violation of campaign rules is a deduction of votes from that party’s total. The official election rulebook can be found at Uoflsga.org/about/elections/.
The College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Business will be holding their own Student Council elections at a later date than the general SGA elections. These elections are still open for candidate registration. The College of Business has five seats available, and Arts and Sciences has 10.
McReynolds said the decision to have independent elections was made for students who wanted to make their voices heard, but felt that it was too difficult to get on a standard SGA slate without being greek, “rather than having to get on this larger political machine that the slates have become.”
He also said he hopes that students will take a lesson from the current uncontested election, and consider running for Arts and Sciences or Business School student council.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that the SGA budget was $600,000.
Photo courtesy / CardsFirst