The Auburn Student Senate passed more modifications to the rules governing student elections, including new provisions that restrict how many students can gather to campaign on University grounds and another that forbids campaigns from soliciting votes off campus.
At their Monday night meeting, the Senate modified sections 708.4.9 and 708.5.2 of the Code of Laws. Section 708.4.9, which has become referred to as concourse election law, was the main topic of discussion.
The bill was originally proposed to limit campaigns to 10 people actively campaigning on any given concourse or building. Many senators felt this wording was too vague, so the bill was tabled and reworked by the Code of Laws Committee.
In a new form presented Monday, the bill proposed to limit active campaigning to up to 10 people within 200 yards of another group of same campaign supporters.
A final version of the bill, which passed Monday, will give the executive director of elections — with input from the Elections Board — the authority to develop a map of locations and rules for campaigning. In certain locations, which will likely include portions of the Haley Concourse, no more than 10 campaign workers can gather for any individual campaign.
Off campus, the new rules will prohibit students from actively campaigning or soliciting votes just on election day. Candidates and campaigns can still go to dinners and campaign downtown during the rest of election week, which has historically been the case.
The map will be included in candidate campaign packets, which include other rules and regulations.
“The wording is to keep people from finding loopholes and ways to cheat the system,” said Agriculture Sen. Emily Stone. “This bill is about ... making elections a fair and just contest for all.”
Stone presented the bill with Liberal Arts Sen. Ken Ward, and they said they felt the bill necessary in order for smaller campaigns to be able to compete with larger ones.
“We need to level the playing field, especially between Greek and non-Greek candidates, so that anyone who is qualified to serve and wants to serve the Auburn student body feels like they can run a successful campaign,” Ward said.
The two sponsors of the bill also attributed its importance to concerns they have received from the student body.
“Students are just wanting to get to class or go to the Student Center Starbucks while not having to deal with 90 to over a hundred people on small parts of the concourse,” Ward said.
When the Senate was discussing the version which used distances in yards for the regulations, several senators in both meetings considering the bill brought up the concept of having a map of designated campaign zones that would be included in the campaign packets given to candidates.
“I think the map is a fine idea for the campaign packet, but this isn’t the campaign packet, this is election law,” Stone said. “This is what we have the authority to decide on.”
Stone and Ward showed concern over a potential map because of SGA’s lack of jurisdiction over the creation of it. That task would be in the hands of Elections Board every year, and Executive Director of Elections Cathrine Milling weighed in on the topic, even presenting a mockup of what such a map could look like.
“We could do a map in the campaign packet – that map would be fluid,” Milling said. “It’s something that we would evaluate from year to year. We would go through it each year and have our team draw up a campus map based on the popularity of the region, based on where people traditionally campaign, so on and so forth.”
A motion was then passed changing the wording of the bill to limit campaigners to locations designated in the campaign packet instead of every 200 yards. The new version passed, but as of the publication of this report, there isn’t an exact count of the votes.
The other major piece of legislation voted on was a bill modifying election law 708.5.2, referred to as the off-campus campaigning bill. Stone and Ward, members of the code of laws committee, also proposed this change.
This bill forbids students campaigning from using their personal phones or computers to directly garner votes from other students and restricted them from actively soliciting votes off campus.
Stone shared her experience as a campaigner this last Miss Homecoming election cycle.
“It was less of me shoving my phone in [voters’] faces and them just voting to get me to stop annoying them and more me actually talking about my candidate – what she stood for and why they should vote for her,” Stone said. “I think that’s the purpose of this as well, to have informed voters who are voting for the best possible candidate, not just voting because someone’s annoying them.”
Ward echoed these sentiments.
“We don’t want anyone to vote because they are being annoyed,” Ward said. “If their only impression of SGA is that one campaign week when everyone on the concourse or … off campus was annoying them, it would not help our cause to ‘serve, promote and unify the whole student body.’”
Sen. Brooks Jones felt that the bill limited campaigns too much and argued that SGA had no jurisdiction to control what students do off campus as long as they followed the law. He made a motion to change the wording to “all off-campus campaigning activities on voting day should follow local law.”
“This would make the whole vote pointless in my eyes,” Sen. Max Zinner said eliciting a snapping applause.
Zinner’s argument, which was echoed by several other senators, was that the bill was created to keep active campaigns on campus and that students doing activities around the Auburn and Opelika communities should follow the law anyway.
The motion was knocked down after only receiving one “yes” vote from Jones, and the bill was passed with its original wording, prohibiting campaigns from soliciting votes off campus on election day.