SGA voting accidents affect election results, despite problems voter turnout at record highs
April 10, 2014
Multiple students were unable to run in this year’s Student Government Association election due to insufficient signatures collected to be recognized as a candidate.
Students wishing to be recognized must obtain a certain number of signatures depending on where they live. For Residence Hall candidates that means 55 signatures, for traditional dorms and R.O.C.K. Apartments candidates 35 signatures and for commuter candidates 65 signatures.
One such student, freshman environmental science major Matthew Scott, accidentally only obtained 40 of the 55 signatures (40 is a full sheet of signatures on the form provided by SGA) and was left with the only option to win as a write-in candidate. Scott lost to Sophia Sarver of the COSTUME Party.
Had his name appeared on the ballot, Scott may have had a better chance of getting more votes. This was the case for junior history major Dan Gladis who was not only elected as a commuter senator for next year but had more votes than any other student running for the seat with 366 votes. However, Gladis never turned in his signatures and his name should not have appeared on the ballot either.
“It was a mistake and we couldn’t fix it,” said SGA President and chair of the elections committee, Buddy Clements. “When I went to remove the names that didn’t [collect enough signatures] his name didn’t get removed by accident. That was an error with Excel and when I sent it to Charlie I didn’t realize until the vote had started.”
Gladis, who pulled out of the campaign before it began, was shocked when he found out he had been mistakenly elected to office.
“I was naturally surprised and amused because this is the second year in a row that I have been accidentally elected to SGA,” he said. In last year’s election, Gladis split the win for Watson Hall senator with Timothy Ragan, both as write-in candidates.
Gladis informed SGA that he would not be serving as a senator and the seat was offered to Brandon Cannon, the commuter with the next highest number of votes.
The elections issues didn’t end with the names on the ballot. They extended to conflicts with the constitution, advertising and getting an increase in voter turnout from the previous year’s election.
“There were a lot of issues this year with elections,” Clements said, explaining that one of which was a restrictive timeline from the SGA Constitution.
“We’re actually changing within our constitution. The timeline is really detrimental sometimes and last year they actually voted to not follow the timeline,” he explained. “If I wouldn’t have had the elections when we did, I could have been removed from office [based on the current timeline].”
“We tried to do a new system of all online advertisements with paperless posts,” Clements said. SGA did tweet to let students know when forms were out for the upcoming election, but waited until the day of the debate to inform students and failed to regularly post once voting had begun. No announcements regarding elections could be found on the group’s Facebook, with the exception of a post congratulating Katie Hill after having won the presidential seat.
“[Online advertising] worked pretty well, but at the same time the advertisement really comes from the parties running,” he said.
“We were pretty close the same numbers last year, maybe about 60 less and I don’t know why that was, maybe it was just less people were interested this year and I think there was a little less campaigning from both sides,” Clements said.
According to the latest numbers for Spring 2014, there are 8018 students eligible to vote in the elections. Katie Hill beat Maria Montero in a 695-391 vote, depicting that 1086 students voted in the elections, about 13.5 percent of the total student body.
While 13.5 percent may seem low, Clements said it was actually more than any of the other Pa. State System of Higher Education SGA elections see for voter turnout, based on his information from a recent SGA conference.
“I wish more students would be active and involved with our elections, but I’m not too displeased with the numbers.”
Jackie Bursic, Jamymie Macek, Jordan Bingman, Ben Ways, Carl Izzo III, Bryce Groh and Alexander Durham tied for Rhodes Hall Senator, each with only one vote. Another election will be held to determine a winner.
SGA President Elect Katie Hill said Monday night on 88.1FM WSRU’s “The Jim Garrity Show” that she agreed with Clements that having more students active and involved with the elections is something to strive for.
“I think it would be bad if I said I was happy with those numbers,” Hill said. “I of course wish that more students voted and I think that both the PRIDE Party and the COSTUME Party tried to reach groups of people whether it was on campus or off.”
She felt one change to try for next year would be rethinking the way the link to vote was distributed.
“It’s hard when [the election email] comes from an SRU Communication when those are not always the most looked at email on campus,” Hill said. “I think it would be interesting to have the president send it out.” She also said she would like to see more of a presence on social media for the elections and emphasized how important it was for students to vote because of all that SGA can do for them.
SGA serves as the governing body to most clubs and organizations at Slippery Rock University, oversees the bookstore, offers preschool and childcare services, legal services, runs the Happy Bus, manages homecoming, and functions as an independent corporation with a roughly two-million dollar budget.