New SA election rules to prioritize affordability in campaigns

Media Credit: Max Sall | Hatchet Photographer

Student Association Sen. Sean Kumnick, U-at-Large, sponsored a bill that will limit the amount of money that SA candidates can spend on their election campaigns and require more signatures before being eligible to run.

The Student Association Senate wants to make next month’s elections a little cheaper.

A resolution passed last week puts stricter limits on the amount candidates can spend on their campaigns, and requires students to collect more signatures than in the past before they’re eligible to run. The resolution passed unanimously and without debate, a boon to the group’s hope that this year’s elections are less contentious than last year’s.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Sean Kumnick, U-at-Large, said the resolution is an extension of former SA Executive Vice President Casey Syron’s platform. Syron’s goals revolved around affordability for students, like a WMATA discount program, before Syron stepped down last month.

Kumnick said he hopes the new rules will reflect Syron’s overarching goal to trim costs on campus by imposing fewer cost and “social status” barriers on potential candidates, and will also make the elections process simpler.

“I want to make it so that any kid at GW can run, regardless of endorsements or which student organizations can come out and vote. GW is always going to tend to overdo it when it comes to elections because of the nature of our school, but I wanted to make it so that anyone can run,” he said.

Presidential and executive vice presidential candidates must now obtain 500 signatures to run for those positions and presidential candidates’ campaign expenses will be capped at $600 this season. Last year, each presidential candidate could spend up to $1,000 on his or her campaign, though the winners of the top two spots last year spent the least on their campaigns compared to their opponents.

Donor contributions to campaigns cannot exceed 10 percent of each candidates’ total spending limit, another change Kumnick said will prevent larger student groups from funding a single candidates’ campaign, a tactic he hopes to avoid.

“I think it’s more a preventive measure. I haven’t seen it yet, but GW is a place where students try to emulate real elections,” he said. “There are no real examples yet, but it kind of prevents students from forming their own GW Super PAC, if you will.”

Candidates are also required to maintain donor contribution lists and submit them to the JEC at the end of the election cycle.

SA President Andie Dowd said limits on campaign spending are “a great cause” to be added to the elections. Dowd spent $459 on her campaign last year for items like palm cards, Facebook ads, posters and buttons.

“It limits unfair advantages students could have, and I think this helps level the playing field,” she said. “People have spent more than they needed to. In past years, students have bought T-shirts and handed them out, and those are costly.”

The resolution also includes a provision for the JEC to put the 10,700-word document outlining the rule changes on its website.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.