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Student elections on the horizon

Students will vote on March 5, candidates for senate, president, vice president hit the campaign tra

Campus Correspondent

Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014

Updated: Sunday, February 23, 2014 23:02

Undergraduate Student Government elections will take place on March 5.

Students should go to vote.uconn.edu to vote. The website is run by “UConn Votes,” which “exists to coordinate large-scale, UConn-wide votes, including elections, polling and contests,” according to the site.

The open senatorial positions for this spring semester are mostly academic seats, including five for Multicultural and Diversity at Large Senators, three senatorial positions for Agriculture, three for Business, one for Education, three for Engineering, five for ACES, one for Fine Arts, eleven for Liberal Arts and Sciences, one for Nursing and one each for Pharmacy and Ratcliffe Hicks. The position of comptroller and president will also be contested on March 5.

Residential hall and class senators were chosen in the fall semester and these senators will serve their terms for the rest of academic year.

This year’s campaign features two tickets, one with presidential candidate Carlyle Bethel and vice presidential candidate David Rifkin and the other with presidential candidate Mark Sargent and vice presidential candidate Claire Price.

Political affiliation is arbitrary in UConn student elections. Candidates only run on the platform of what they wish to accomplish.

While there are two tickets competing for the presidency this year, Chief Justice of the USG Judiciary Committee Shawn Pilares said that this isn’t always the case.

“This year and last year there are only two tickets. However, in the past, there have been three or more. For example, if we’re talking about the Spring of 2012, there were three separate tickets,” said Pilares.

Pilares, an 8th–semester international relations major, oversees the Judiciary Committee and as Chief Justice he is integrally involved in regulating undergraduate student elections. Last year, Pilares was a part of disqualifying a presidential ticket for breaking election rules. The ticket consisted of current speaker of the student senate, Shiv Gandhi, who was running for president, and Mark Sargent, who was running for vice president. After being disqualified, Gandhi attempted to appeal.

“Essentially what they did was, since Speaker Gandhi had a large cohort of senators who were loyal to his campaign, they sought to pass legislation that would cut the judiciary out of the decision-making process,” Pilares said.

The bill, which Pilares said “basically tore up the constitution and said ‘to hell with it,’” was vetoed.

The job of the Judiciary is to make sure candidates don’t break rules while campaigning, rules which candidates have to agree to before they run. These include standards in where candidates can campaign, and one of the main reasons for Gandhi’s ticket being dissembled was the fact that he campaigned at a USG funded event. Pilares said that this is “a big no-no.”

Pilares mentioned the different ways candidates could disseminate information to voters. The Daily Campus usually publishes a joint elections edition before polling begins, where candidates are given space to reach out to their constituents, but Pilares was adamant in saying that candidates should be prepared to put extra time in and campaign with vigor if they hope to be elected. Other avenues used to speak to voters include Facebook pages, events, Facebook advertising (which Pilares said is quite effective), flyers and buttons.

The USG Presidential and Vice Presidential debates are being held in the Student Union North Lobby on Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. While turnout varies, Pilares said that voter apathy is the biggest challenge USG faces.

“We always want to change voter turnout. We have an issue with apathy. It’s a generational thing – younger people tend to be a bit more apathetic when it comes to politics. … Compared to other universities, though, the voter turnout for UConn is noticeably higher than other institutions,” Pilares said.

 

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