Last week, UMBC’s Student Government Association held a special referendum in which the student body was invited to vote on a multi-faceted piece of election-related legislation. The changes, which passed with an overwhelming majority, intend to reform an imperfect election board, nominating committee and appeals board.
The special election comes after last year’s tumultuous SGA election that ended with the forced involvement of the administration. Despite the legislation being a step in the right direction for an SGA, the way the referendum was handled could be improved.
The election was publicized solely on the SGA’s myUMBC page, with scattered flyers around campus and through the Facebook posts of various members of the student organization. This meant that although voting on the new legislation was open to all students, very few knew of its existence.
Unless you were connected to members of SGA on Facebook or specifically checked the myUMBC page, one would have almost surely missed the entire affair. In fact, just 447 out of over 10,000 undergraduate students belong to the myUMBC group.
The lack of publicity surrounding the referendum is clearly reflected in its outcome. A meager 162 total votes were cast over the course of the week in which the election was held. A statement posted on the SGA’s website noted, “149 students voted in favor of the constitutional changes, while 13 students voted against it. With a 92 percent majority, the legislation passes. The new policies, including the creation of the nominating committee and appeals board, will take effect for the upcoming SGA candidate election in April, pending final approval from President Hrabowski…”
Had students been given an opportunity to consider the provisions of the legislation prior to the voting period, there would more than likely have been a better showing when it came time to cast ballots.
Last April, an instant run-off voting system was introduced by senator Evan Leiter-Mason. A survey was posted to myUMBC in which students were asked to react to the proposal. The survey garnered over 400 responses. If a similar procedure had been used in the case of the special election referendum, the resulting vote counts would have been far more representative of the student body.
Overall, the changes that will be implemented following the referendum are positive. The election board chair can no longer invalidate the results of elections or determine stipends, satellite-campus campaigning is prohibited and the president no longer can appoint the election board chair, among other things.
The improvements to the process will invariably help the SGA avoid some of the problems that arose in previous years. Going forward, though, it would be good to see more of an effort by the members of the student government to include the entire campus in the decision-making process. The SGA is, after all, for you: the student.