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If the SA wants to be taken seriously, campaigning can’t be a joke

By Thresher Editorial Board     1/10/23 9:48pm

Student Association elections at Rice routinely garner little attention, often struggling to break 25% turnout, which the Thresher and years of SA representatives have called problematic for the health of our student government. With the recently proposed election timeline cutting campaigning to just one week, we’re worried this year we might manage to reach a new low.

In previous years, the SA election saw nearly three weeks of campaigning, including the week-long voting period. That might sound like a long time, but many students who didn’t vote in SA elections say they didn’t know the election was happening or couldn’t be bothered to vote.

While the official election timeline has not been set, the proposed timeline shared with the Thresher indicated only one week of campaigning, followed by the standard one week of voting. While the director of elections indicated that campaigning may be allowed to continue through the week of voting, we do not feel this is a substitute for ample time before the election. The director declined to share his reasoning for the change with the Thresher.

The potential extension to the proposed timeline still cuts the campaign period down by 33%. This reduces time for candidates to reach potential voters and is not sufficient time for candidates to promote their platforms. Why should students be invested in an election when candidates aren’t given the time to be invested in them?

As a guiding principle, the SA should be trying to improve engagement in their elections, and the best way is to allow candidates more time to connect with potential voters. Considering our voter turnout was critically low to begin with, we think it unwise to implement election policies that will further discourage candidates’ abilities to engage voters. A week-long campaign timeline will do more harm than good when it comes to increasing voter participation and for allowing voters to gain a comprehensive sense of who and what is on the ballot.

Typically SA election timelines are voted on in November, but this year, Senate will be voting on an election timeline on Jan. 23, meaning any changes to the timeline are on a tight deadline as election season approaches. We encourage everyone to reach out to their college’s SA representatives and ask them to support multiple weeks of campaigning before voting begins. Regardless of your interest in the SA, we hope that everyone agrees our election process should seek to engage as many students as possible.

Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Ben Baker-Katz, Morgan Gage, Bonnie Zhao, Hajera Naveed, Nayeli Shad, Riya Misra, Michelle Gachelin, Daniel Schrager, Prayag Gordy and Brandon Chen. News editor Hajera Naveed recused herself from this editorial due to her being unavailable for the editorial board meeting.

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