Voting Viewpoints: SGA should move up spring elections

The Day After

The Issue: The Universities of Louisville and Kentucky recently held their elections for Student Government Association, which included the election of their new, respective SGA presidents.

Our Stance: Here at WKU, SGA elections will not take place for another month. We believe moving the elections up and having the voting period open for longer would be beneficial for everyone.

Ever since the 2016 election started in early 2015 it feels weird to even mention the word “election” so soon after last November. Yet, here we are talking about elections once again.

This time, however, we’re talking about SGA elections. That’s right, come later this semester students will have the opportunity to cast a ballot for SGA positions such as senator and the big one for president.

Of course, we’re running under the assumption current SGA President Jay Todd Richey doesn’t stage a coup d’etat his last few months and retain the presidential reins. You can never tell what he’s going to do. Unless it’s about whether to conduct an open or closed search for WKU’s next president; we know what he’ll do there.

Here at WKU, SGA elections won’t take place until April 17 and 18, and the final deadline to file to run for an office isn’t until April 4. When it comes to this electoral timeline, our SGA falls behind several other schools in the state.

The University of Kentucky wrapped up their elections on March 2 and the University of Louisville will be wrapping up their elections later this week. Additionally, the polls for Murray State University will be opening on March 13 and elections for Northern Kentucky University’s SGA will open on March 29.

Four schools will have completed their SGA elections before candidates here are required to file for their candidacy. Of course, it’s plausible those eyeing positions can start campaigning before the final filing date, but regardless it seems like SGA election season doesn’t pick up at WKU until April.

We see major benefits to holding elections earlier in the semester. One, the election of a new SGA president means the election of a new student regent to the Board of Regents as well. Having a well-trained voice on the board representing students is crucial, and gains more importance as public universities continue to lack funding from the state government which continually places the burden of payment on the backs of students.

A benefit to earlier elections is a more prolonged transition period, especially for incoming executive members. By the time elections are held we’ll be quickly approaching finals week and this doesn’t seems like an adequate amount of time to get a person acquainted with his or her new responsibilities.

Additionally, as the semester continues, the attention and motivation of students tends to wane. We can all taste the end of the semester and are desperately tallying how many more skips we can use for our 8 a.m. Point being, SGA elections will likely be the farthest thing from students’ minds.

We also want to advocate for having a longer voting window. Right now, students are allotted two days to cast a vote. Which seems like an adequate amount of time until you really sit down and think about how prone students are to not do something within a reasonable amount of time; even if it will take less than five minutes.

This two-day voting period is normal for most Kentucky universities. In fact, out of the schools we mentioned earlier, only U of L deviates from the two day window. In their elections, polls are open for four days and this includes the event they need to hold a run-off election.

With a longer voting period, the hope would be that more students vote, thereby increasing voter turnout. Less than ten percent of the student body voted in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 spring SGA elections. Even Richey’s win last year would fall under the 10 percent line.

Furthermore, there’s no real reason as to why the SGA elections are held so late. We knew the spring 2015 results by April 2, so clearly there’s some leeway when elections are held. But such decision are made by the Judicial Council.

We implore the Judicial Council to consider moving up the SGA elections, and we propose a modest test run. Move the final filing date to March 28 and then open the voting window from 12 a.m. of April 10 to 12:01 a.m. of April 13. This still allows for roughly the same amount of time already granted to candidates as things stand now.

After all, what’s democracy without shaking some things up now and then?