Brace yourselves, GW. It’s election season again. This time, it’s not the White House that is up for grabs, but the much coveted and sometimes controversial presidency of the Student Association.
Whether you love, hate or refuse to acknowledge the SA, it is hard to ignore the frenzied campaigning that grips Foggy Bottom each spring. This year, campaign season may be a little different.
At Tuesday night’s SA senate meeting, SA Sen. Logan Dobson, CCAS-U, successfully passed the “Open the Elections Act,” which, provided that it is signed by SA President Vishal Aswani, will eliminate the requirement that candidates must gather signatures from one percent of the student body – which usually amounts to upwards of 400 signatures – to get their names on the ballot. While this is a good step toward transparency and openness in the SA, it may be too extreme a move in the opposite direction.
If candidates no longer have to get these signatures, it does encourage more students to run, but it also means that limitless joke candidates would have little to stop them from running, apart from filing some paperwork with the Joint Elections Committee. In previous elections, before candidates needed to get signatures to become official, joke candidates were the norm rather than the exception from year to year.
While a joke candidate or two would undoubtedly add a bit of humor to an election process of an organization that tends to take itself too seriously at times, the SA cannot afford to be perceived as a joke. The SA controls close to half a million dollars and is the main source of student advocacy. With effective leadership, it can be a strong force for improving student life.
If a candidate cannot manage to get about 400 students to sign off on their candidacy, how can they expect to connect with the whole student body as president? Shaking hands and kissing babies is part of American politics, and if the SA is going to model itself on the federal government, is it too much to ask to have the candidates do a little work?
Still, it is understandable that collecting 400 signatures can get tedious for candidates and students alike. The best option would be to cut the number in half, so that candidates would still need to demonstrate their seriousness of intent to run, but without aggravating students by knocking on countless doors to fill the signature quota.
This legislation would undoubtedly help to streamline the election, and make it easier for a wider range of students to run. Still, unless we want candidates running on a platform of “Apathy, humility and crazy hats!” (an actual example from several years ago), it is best to leave a few safeguards up to keep the SA election as efficient as possible.