Students React to Controversial Student Election
May 10, 2017 – The UW Daily
“Special election resolution fails in the ASUW Senate”
At last night’s ASUW Student Senate meeting, contentious debate occurred regarding this year’s ASUW Board elections. A resolution was introduced which would have, in its final form, recalled the May 8-10 election results and held a special election before the end of the school year. The resolution eventually failed after extensive discussion.
The bill, named the Resolution in Support of Recalling the ASUW General Election (R-23-41), was originally aimed at election reform. Student senator Vineeth Sai Narajala sponsored the original version of the bill, which would have required the sending of a university-wide email reminding students of the procedure to vote and for the ASUW website to include a page for write-in candidates, among other provisions.
The resolution was originally inspired by the fact that only one ticket filed before the deadline this year, and that some students feel the unopposed candidates are unqualified for their positions. Since then, a write-in campaign has been launched for the positions of vice president and director of programming. Dylan Tran is running for vice president and Ritika Jain is running for director of programming.
Although each senator raised specific concerns when general discussion was opened, there were a few broad themes that emerged from the debate. Problems with outreach were raised repeatedly, with several senators saying they felt that the ASUW hasn’t done enough election outreach in order to ensure that all of the student body is aware of the election and its various deadlines.
Others said they were worried about the inaccessibility of ASUW, and that this election cycle is indicative of a larger systemic problem. These senators felt as though the ticket system is a fundamental structural flaw and that it is prohibitive to candidates who want to run but are unable to fill an entire ticket. Senators felt that this is partially due to a lack of understanding of the functions and responsibilities of ASUW.
“The most common question I get from my constituents is ‘what is ASUW and what do the members of ASUW actually do?” one senator added. Regardless of the individual reasoning, many of the senators felt that these issues led to only one ticket meeting the filing deadline.
Members of the 2016-17 board were present at the meeting, and interjected their own expertise throughout the course of the discussion. Before speaking, they all noted they were talking as official ASUW representatives and therefore were taking care to not influence discussions with their personal opinions.
Taylor Beardall, director of internal policy, spoke to clarify some of the technicalities of the elections and any possible re-vote. She believes election reform is the crux of many of the issues cited by senators, including the ticket structure. “Everyone runs with a ticket, and you’ve come to learn that’s how you win,” Beardall said. “This definitely creates a barrier.”
Jasmair Bains, chair of the Elections Administration Committee (EAC), spoke on the outreach by him and other members of the committee over the past year. Information sessions and presentations to various RSOs were just a few examples of the outreach his committee has done. Bains also added that these events were marketed and publicized over ASUW social media channels.
>Kaitlyn Zhou, director of university affairs, spoke to the work of the EAC. “ASUW has put in an incredible amount of effort into outreach this election cycle,” Zhou said. “There were several tickets that formed this year and decided not to run,” director of campus partnerships Hakikat Bains added. “The EAC did extensive outreach. The ticket system is a barrier for students, and we need to acknowledge that, but I don’t understand how redoing this year’s election will solve that issue.”
Several members of the ASUW board pointed out over the course of the discussion that the point of the filing deadline is to encourage candidates to abide by campaign finances rules, ethics, and general election policies and procedures, and is not intended to be a barrier.
Varisha Khan, student senator and director of the Middle Eastern Student Association, spoke about the double standard present with ASUW positions. Applications for hired positions don’t close until there are at least three applicants in order to ensure that there are at least two people to interview. Khan raised concerns that candidates for the board positions aren’t held to the same standard, creating a division within ASUW.
Some senators also stated that although senate is the appropriate body to handle these concerns, voting on a resolution should wait until there is time to workshop a more thorough solution. There was a fundamental divide between a few of the senators who spoke, with some believing that the ASUW should have a more active role in encouraging students to run for these positions, and others arguing that it is the responsibility of interested candidates to research deadlines and requirements on their own.
“Although I can empathize with what is behind the bill, I don’t know if this is the solution,” one senator said. “This wouldn’t achieve what the sponsor is trying to achieve. However, it is highly irregular that we are talking about being a democratically elected board when we have one ticket running.” The general sentiment of the current board of directors was that the issues being raised by the senators, although valid, wouldn’t necessarily be addressed by this bill or in this election cycle. More large-scale reform reform would be required if substantial changes were going to be made to the elections process.
Before the final vote was held, Jasmair Bains spoke up a final time, reiterating his previous concerns. “Marketing and outreach are a five-month process,” Jasmair Bains said. “If we do vote for a recall, this is a very limited part of time. If the problem senators are concerned with is a lack of informed students, [they] will have even less time, and this still wouldn’t have the outcome you guys are trying to get.”
The discussion period was then closed, and senators began to vote. During the vote, senate speaker Almodine Thompson clarified that current senators running for board positions should abstain from the vote. This applied to Ian O’Keefe, Bo Goodrich, and Ritika Jain. The resolution lost with a vote of 38-41-8.