Stony Brook University’s Undergraduate Student Government held elections last week. Polls were open April 16-20, but the campaign process is more than just putting one’s name on a ballot.
Campaigning does not begin with a poster design or a catchy slogan. The eight-week process begins with the Elections Board. The Elections Board holds an informational meeting—usually at the end of January—to inform prospective candidates and answer questions. The guidelines for campaigning are established and from there candidates are on their own.
According to Elections Board Chairman Jillian Genco, candidates must submit a letter of intent with a platform statement within three days of the informational meeting.
“The platform statement is what will appear on SOLAR,” Genco said. “So, when people are voting, they’ll be able to see what [the candidate] stands for.”
Typically students include leadership skills, past positions, and major areas within USG that they would like to change, according to Genco.
After the paperwork is approved by the Elections Board, each candidate receives a petitioning packet with signature slots. In order to run, candidates need a quota of signatures to prove to the board that they have a substantial chance of being elected.
The Executive Council—President, Vice President, and Treasurer—candidates need a minimum of 600 signatures. Candidates running for the other “VP” positions need 400 signatures; class representatives and senators need 100 signatures.
“We recommend [class reps and senator candidates] get more than 100 signatures because they need to be validated,” Genco said. “If one of the signatures is not valid and [the candidate] only has 100, then they are disqualified.”
She said that many candidates have problems getting accurate information from students when they sign the form. The student needs to include their full name, net ID, phone number and signature.
“A lot of people will put their SOLAR ID where the Net ID is supposed to go, and that’s an issue because it doesn’t count as a signature.”
Ten percent of the contacts on each petition are contacted by the Elections Board in order to check the validity of each petitioner’s packet. After the candidates’ packets are deemed valid, electioneering begins.
Candidates have a broad-spectrum for campaigning. According to the USG Bylaws, there are no limits on campaigning as long as the Elections Board approves it, but there are restrictions on where parties and candidates can campaign.
All flyers must be posted in accordance with campus rules and nothing can be distributed or posted within 100 feet of a Sinc Site. Campaigning is not permitted in the USG Suite of the Student Activities Center or at any USG sponsored event. Since voting is done through SOLAR, any computing site on campus is considered a polling place.
“People have been asking, ‘Can I bring my laptop around and ask people to vote?’” Genco said. “[The Elections Board] looked in the USG Code and it says that no electronic device can be affiliated with a candidate, so that answers that question.”
Genco will be a member of the Elections Board for the next two years, this being her second semester. It is her first time being in charge of the board and there are many things she wishes to change next year.
“Unfortunately, [the elections portion of the USG Code] was not written by the Elections Board,” she said. “There are some rules that are just ridiculous … and some that are so vague.” In order to clarify and fix the issues, Genco would like to start by getting a group of dedicated members. “I hope that next year [the board] will have a solid group of people … and once we have this group we’ll be able to approach the Senate and say we need to reform these bylaws because we don’t agree with them.”
One example of the vagueness in the code has to do with the party affiliations. “This election is dominated by parties, and there’s almost nothing in the code about them. There needs to be clarification because right now there’s maybe one line about them.”
SUP Seawolves 4 Change, are you SAFE?
The Students United Party (SUP), Seawolves 4 Change and Students Actively Fighting for Equality (SAFE) are the three major parties this election round.
Each party is formed by candidates. According to the USG Code, “All Party Coalitions shall be granted a Charter by the Elections Board, upon submission of Bylaws for such Party Coalition, which shall expire at the end of the semester in which the Charter was granted.”
Kenneth Meyers was a part of the SUP Party before he co-created SAFE.
“I left [SUP] because I realized in the first meeting that I didn’t know anyone,” Meyers said. “I wasn’t comfortable running with people I didn’t know anything about.”
Meyers hesitated to join a party in the first place because he does not agree with the ideas behind them.
“I hate undergraduate parties,” he said, “because almost everyone has the same viewpoint, and it becomes us versus them, and oh, I just want to use these people to get as many votes as possible.”
Juan Pablo Cordon, presidential candidate, has a similar view on the party system. He is the only Executive Board candidate to run un-affiliated.
“It worked both ways because there wasn’t really a party for me to join and I didn’t really look to join [any party],” Cordon said. “I don’t want to have to owe people favors and have to work with the parties. It’s a new stand point and I’m coming in fresh … without people telling me what to think.”
Sophia Marsh of the SUP party is the only candidate for Vice President of Communications, but she thinks that parties are a crucial part of the election process.
“The whole idea of the Students United Party is people not just from one area—it’s a very diverse group,” Marsh said. “There are groups that are very polarized, but our group has members from every possible club and we’re all friends outside [of the party] and get along really well.”
One goal all candidates seem to have in common is the need for change—to weed out rumored corruption and make USG more efficient and transparent to the student body.
In addition to choosing next year’s USG membership, voters decided to keep the Student Activity Fee mandatory with a final vote of 1120-963.
New members of USG now must decide, “If you had $3.1 million, what would you do with it?”