SG cancels fall elections; questions remain


Student Government canceled the fall Senate elections because of a lack of candidate interest, Elections Supervisor Erica Richey notified the Spinnaker Oct. 19.

This is the second consecutive SG election where prominent offices are uncontested. In the spring, Student Body President John Barnes and Vice President Mike Saathoff were elected to office without opposition.

There were 20 open Senate seats up for the Oct. 27 and Oct. 28 election, but only 21 applications were filed and one applicant was disqualified. Because of the newly amended SG Constitution, the Senate is not required to hold an election because each person’s letter of intent is recognized as a vote for themselves, Senate President James Cima said.

Cima said SG disqualified the 21st person because the candidate didn’t have enough student signatures on the application, which requires 150 signatures to be valid.

The Spinnaker submitted a Freedom of Information Act request Oct. 20 for the names of these applicants and all records pertaining to the SG Senate candidates, pursuant to the state open records law, Florida Statute Annotated Sections 119.01 through 119.15

The Spinnaker also submitted an FOIA request for the most recent amended Constitution earlier in the afternoon of Oct. 20, after an oral request was denied by Laurel Kendall, SG adviser. She said she wanted a written request given to both herself and Cima. SG is required to respond within 10 business days of the request.

The Spinnaker was unable to verify the wording of the amendment and its implications because of SG’s refusal to accommodate the Spinnaker’s oral request with an updated and amended Constitution. Both Kendall and Richey told the Spinnaker that an updated copy of the Constitution could be found online at the SG’s Web site, but after an exhaustive search, the only version the Spinnaker could find online was the 2008-2009 Constitution, which is a year and a half outdated.

The Spinnaker’s written requests remained unanswered by the end of the business day Oct. 20.

Amendment changes end to write-ins, ends up canceling election

The Senate recently changed the statute regulating SG elections and subsequently abolished the write-in candidate option, which enabled students to vote in uncontested races. Richey said these changes, which occurred at the first senate meeting of the fall semester, are all a part of the legislative process.

“Loopholes can be created, or things just become out of line,” Richey said.

Without the write-in candidate option, holding an election featuring nothing but unopposed candidates would be a waste of students’ time and money, which is why the revised legislation allowed for the cancellation of the election this semester and any other semester where all opponents run unopposed, Richey said.

“I don’t really know, I think that we just looked at the amount of money that was spent on the election last year,” Richey said. “We looked at the amount of time that went [into the election and] we also looked at how it almost would’ve been considered a nuisance for students.

The money that would’ve been spent on the election will go back into the SG general fund, and it’s possible the surplus funding may be used to augment funding for the spring election, Cima said.

“Campaigning costs money,” he said. “If we can save money, we are going to.”

The exact amount of funds for the election was unavailable at press time.

Richey also attributed the legislators’ decision to the fact that the write-in process is very hard for SG to track.

Cima also added that write-ins and uncontested elections not only aggravate students and waste their time but also create just “another deadline [SG] has to meet”.

Cima went further, saying that holding an election for 20 unopposed candidates is unfair for those candidates who might not be able to compete with a superstar write-in. He used Brad Pitt as an example. He said what would happen if someone like Pitt was a student on campus, regardless of all the hard work the other candidates performed, it wouldn’t mean anything because of his status.

Student voters have elected write-in candidates in the past, as was the case in the 2006-2007 school year, when two students were elected as write-ins, Cima said.

“Now there’s no chance of someone coming up from behind and winning,” Richey said.

SG said student participation is down, elections important to student involvement

“[A couple of years ago] people were power hungry [and] wanted the offices for their own personal gain,” Cima said. But now SG cancels elections because there aren’t enough people signing up to join.

Student Body Vice President Mike Saathoff said it’s a priority to improve student involvement on campus.

Yet, the cancellation of this election can be viewed as symptomatic of widespread apathy regarding SG and its operations among students, said Saathoff.

“The problem is this: There [are] a lot of apathy issues that we’re trying to face,” Saathoff said.

He cited the slumping economy, which has put a strain on students’ budgets, for the lack of student participation and enthusiasm.

Therefore, SG plans to gear up for what Saathoff described as a “full-awareness campaign” encompassing all three branches of SG in an effort to inform and engage the student body.

The cancellation of the fall election means the student body has one less opportunity to get involved in SG, which Richey said is something that runs counter to their objectives.

“We like to have their input, and that’s why we wish there was an election,” Richey said.

The negative effects of the election cancellation are not limited to the lack of student participation in voting, as it also robs the candidates running for office — now de-facto SG senators — of the campaign experience in an election, Saathoff said.

However, Saathoff said that he was in an “in-between place” when it came to the election, and that he was saddened the election wasn’t happening but respected the legislative branch’s decision.

“We want to make sure that Student Government is open for everybody,” he said.

One party system may contribute to lacking applicant pool

The Red Party occupies every seat in the SG Senate. There has been no opposition to the ruling party in the Senate chambers going back to at least spring 2009.

Student Body President John Barnes and Saathoff are members of the Red Party, as well.

“I’ve heard all kinds of things,” Saathoff said of the Red Party. “Red Party … Red Coalition … Red Regime.”

Saathoff said he doesn’t want students not affiliated with the groups that comprise the Red Party to feel excluded from the process.

“I would hope that no one feels there is such a [Red Party] dominance [in SG] … if that is [what’s happening], then we are not doing our part [to be an inclusive governmental body].”

Some might view the lack of partisan diversity in SG as a byproduct of their systemic control and the recent legislative changes, but SG officials contend that’s not the case.

“I’m sure it looks bad,” Cima said. “But if they were to come and start asking questions and read our Constitution and statues it wouldn’t be any different than if we would have had elections.”