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Student Association elections kick into gear with information sessions, election packets

Data from the SA Election Handbook Alice Sun / Thresher

By Prayag Gordy     1/23/24 9:18pm

Student Association director of elections Jocelyn Wang held the first information session for interested candidates Monday. Campaigning begins Feb. 7 and ends Feb. 21, when the voting period will open for one week. The SA will announce election results Feb. 29.

Last year, the races for SA president, internal vice president, external vice president and treasurer were uncontested, and no candidates filed in the initial secretary election. The Thresher Backpage created a fake candidate, “Dilf Hunter,” who took 22% of the presidential vote in their satirical write-in campaign.

Now, with at least two students likely to run for SA president, Wang said she hopes to see competition up and down the ballot.

“I think that having multiple people interested in such a prominent position already … spells well for the remainder of the positions,” Wang, a Baker College sophomore, said.

The ballot will include the SA executives, along with Honor Council representatives and leaders of the Blanket Tax organizations. To file a candidacy, students must submit a petition with 25 signatures to the information desk at the Rice Memorial Center by 11:59 p.m. Feb. 1, according to the election handbook.

Wang said she will prioritize increasing student engagement in the election process. Turnout was 15.02% last year, a far cry from 2018, when over half the student body voted in the four-candidate race for president.

Competition continued into 2019, when three presidential candidates filed and 42% of the student body cast a ballot. Then, in February 2020, the presidential election was uncontested for the first time in seven years. Just 27.2% of students voted. The following year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, turnout was 24%, even though the presidency was contested. And in 2022, another competitive race for SA president garnered 1,124 votes, then 26.81% of the student body.

Wang said she believes the lack of choices on the 2023 ballot contributed to voter apathy.

“[Last year] I think people just thought their vote didn’t matter since every position was uncontested,” Wang said.

This time around, the SA will emphasize social media in its push to boost voter turnout. Wang envisions candidate Instagram takeovers, for instance, once the ballot is finalized.

“Having more of a social media presence [and] making sure that the student body feels more connected with their SA representatives will be something that’s really important for increasing things like voter turnout and participation,” she said.

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