Monday night, SGA President Ada Ruth Huntley, senior in global studies, motioned to veto a bill, something which hasn't happened in two years. The senate then unanimously overruled her veto.
The bill Huntley opposed will change the SGA election period length and passed quietly on the senate floor at last week's meeting on Nov. 9.
The bill outlined new preliminary and formal campaign guidelines for candidates and, among other things, shortened the formal campaign period by one day.
The preliminary campaigning period would be four days prior to voting day, taking up the first day of the week, while the formal campaigning period would be the next three days, with voting day presumably falling on a Friday, although there are no specifications for that in the bill.
“In the past, kickoff would maybe [be] on a Thursday afternoon, and candidates would be there all day Friday, and then take a break Saturday and Sunday,” said Tyler Ward, junior in political science and senator for the college of liberal arts. “It would still be a campaigning period, but you just wouldn’t be on the concourse, and then Monday and Tuesday people will just go hard because it’s voting day.”
The bill would allow candidates to begin posting their platforms on social media early, during the preliminary period.
“It would give people more time to research and look up candidates' platforms,” Ward said. “[It would also] give those running more time to get their message out there instead of having to wait for kickoff on Thursday.”
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The preliminary campaigning through social media and ensuring that students were properly informed were concerns Huntley shared during her report for the executive board.
“We want to make students as educated as possible as they navigate through the elections process,” Huntley said. “Most students get most of the information from campaigning on the concourse.”
Voting day falling on Friday was another concern for Huntley, as many students don’t have classes on Fridays and might not vote, decreasing voter participation.
Alongside that, Huntley brought up her concern for the mental health of those running. The shortened campaigning period would not give candidates the weekend to relax and prepare for the next round of campaigning.
“Speaking for myself and my team, we would’ve struggled consolidating the week to those five days and not having the weekend to regroup before voting day,” Huntley said during the report for the Executive Board. “It takes a toll on your mental and physical, and I think it’s better academically to have that break in-between.”
The biggest concern Huntley presented was the lack of on-paper student feedback supporting the bill, not just one-on-one conversations senators had with their constituents.
“There wasn’t any quantifiable feedback to support it,” said Landon McNellage, SGA executive vice president of communications and marketing. “It was a hope from all of exec that we would have more data, so that way when we present it to students and administrators we can have exact numbers.”
The meeting progressed normally after Huntley and the Executive Boards’ reports ended, until Molly Sullivan, senator at-large and senior in health services administration, called for a 10-minute recess in anticipation of the vote.
Some senators went to the restrooms or walked around and stretched for a few minutes, but most of them gathered in clusters to discuss the bill.
A group gathered around McNellage, looking for further explanation for the veto in Huntley’s physical absence from the meeting.
“There’s just no feedback,” McNellage repeated. “We sit in exec meetings and ask ourselves, 'Is what we do going to benefit all 32,000 students?' And you have that same responsibility, but there’s no feedback other than word of mouth supporting this bill.”
The meeting was called back to order shortly after, and the vote to support or overturn Huntley’s veto followed soon after.
Kadin Christian, sophomore in finance and senator for the Harbert College of Business, was the first to step up to the microphone for debate in support of the bill. He mentioned the concern of the lack of on-paper feedback first.
“We’ve had conversations about how we all struggle with survey fatigue from students,” Christian said. “If word of mouth doesn’t have the same impact as surveys, then what are we supposed to do if we’re struggling with that? SGA is not supposed to serve SGA but rather, our constituents, and I don’t want to be told that I’m wrong because I’m going by what my constituents say out of their mouth rather than by a survey.”
Christian spoke mostly about one of the purposes of the bill, which was to stop the "harassment" or pressure of students on the concourse doing the formal campaigning period.
“When you see more people walking behind the Student Center during campaign week to avoid the concourse and that is the only time they walk behind the Student Center, that’s an issue,” Christian said, to a swell of snaps and murmurs of agreement. “And for education, yes the purpose of being on the concourse is to be educated, but how often are we?”
Christian also mentioned that it may be harder on the person running to campaign for three days straight, but that he would have more respect for the person who’s running.
“It would be a whole lot harder,” Christian said. “It speaks more to how bad they want the position if they’re putting their all into it.”
Cole Callahan, junior in biomedical sciences and senator for the college of sciences and mathematics, agreed that it might be harder to run in a single week rather than having a break.
“But, we came to a unanimous decision, and it is by people who are deciding to actually go through this process,” Callahan said.
After clarification that the bill would not be put into effect until the fall 2021 semester and in all following elections, it was put to another vote.
The bill was upheld unanimously by the senators with no debate. In her closing remarks, Huntley thanked everyone for their time and discussion that night.
“We’re all very okay with and support any decisions the senators make,” McNellage said. “It was really nice to see the debate, and I came out of this really proud of them, even though I kind of wish there was more feedback.”
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