Measures to improve election rules’ enforcement, improve overall process
With the goal of improving student elections in mind, the Student Government Association’s Election Board aims to see a number of changes to the electoral process implemented.
Election Board Chairman Evan Leiter-Mason, a sophomore political science and economics major, stood before the SGA Senate Monday night to present a number of impending changes to Election Board practices. Leiter-Mason discussed how these changes aimed to serve student voters.
“We [the Election Board] have been thinking about changing our policies to make the election process better,” Leiter-Mason told the Senate members. “This is something we really want to fix.”
The Election Board will specifically take steps to address student harassment from campaigners. These are intended to protect student-voters from negative electoral experiences.
Under new Election Board rules, campaigners will be prohibited from utilizing mobile devices while campaigning on campus. This rule arose from various students’ descriptions of times in which they felt pressured to cast their vote on mobile devices by campaigners in previous elections.
“Under former rules in previous elections, there were concerns expressed over how close to a student a campaigner could be while the student was voting, or campaigners looking over voters’ shoulders as they voted on mobile devices,” said Leiter-Mason before the Senate. “Now, instead of quibbling over, say, how close to a voter a campaigner is, the practice will simply not be allowed.”
In addition, Leiter-Mason stated that the Election Board will restrict polling hours during the voting period. It will also direct a public awareness campaign regarding election reforms towards students. Finally, new rules will restrict what campaigners can print in commonvision using SGA-allotted funds.
Leiter-Mason argued that the chosen reforms will maximize electoral fairness and voter turnout, while maintaining flexibility for future Election Board members. He also stated that the reforms will be strictly enforced. “Candidates that show a callous disregard for the new rules will be disqualified,” he said.
The reforms stem from expressed student dissatisfaction with previous SGA campaign practices. An SGA survey released to the student body on January 22 highlighted a number of concerns. “The survey’s results revealed that most students were dissatisfied with the tone and conduct of the campaigns, and with the SGA itself,” he said.
Students reported feeling pressured to vote by both candidates and campaign volunteers. Some also expressed a preference that voting remain online.
“We wanted to balance between popular opinions,” Leiter-Mason told the Senate regarding the response to the survey. “We ultimately want to keep voting in the voters’ hands and focus on enforcement of rules.”
In addition to announcing the new Election Board rules, Leiter-Mason also presented a number of proposed reforms to the Election Board itself. These changes would address how the Election Board makes decisions, and are to be voted on by the Senate.
One proposal would allow the Election Board Chair more personal discretion in making administrative decisions necessary “to run elections effectively.” The exceptions would involve Election Board decisions on the time, place, manner of voting and the use of SGA-allotted funds.
Another proposal would allow the Election Board Chair to remove members only with “the advice and consent of the Senate” in the form of a majority vote. The SGA Constitution currently allows the Chair to remove other members without the Senate’s approval.
The Election Board is expected to release a myUMBC discussion post highlighting both the new Election Board rules and the proposals to the Senate sometime this week. The Senate will vote upon the proposals presented by Leiter-Mason next week.