Staff Ed: Unopposed elections show need for serious reforms

September 23, 2010 — by Falcon Editorial Board

Last spring, each officer for ASB ran unopposed. With no opponents, candidates had virtually a free pass to their office, making the process more of a coronation than a competitive race where different ideas are debated.

To begin with, part of the problem lies in the student body itself. Why do so many students pass on the opportunity to exercise their democratic right? Apathy toward elections and student government hinders the ASB’s ability to accurately represent the wants and needs of its constituents. The problem behind this apathy lies in a lack of communication behind what really goes on in ASB.

In 2008, a commission was formed to revise the Constitution after it had been lost. Ironically, the precedent that required ASB to revise the Constitution only points out how the problems in student government are by no means new.

The committee set out to increase student voice through initiatives such as academic class representatives from each third period. However, the ASB has not not actively promoted this clause. As a result, few students know what goes on at ASB meetings, and even fewer have a voice in student government (and even more so when they don’t even have a choice in candidates).

Another fault buried in the Constitution lies in the election system itself. Poorly publicized requirements prohibit the majority of students from running. Even if they do decide to run, many students find out too late of what they must do in order to be eligible as a candidate. Currently, to run as an ASB officer, a student must have attended three ASB meetings and served as a class officer. These requirements severely limit the number of eligible students, perpetuating a cycle of the same people serving the same positions year after year.

Unfair election procedures also deter qualified students from participating. Several years ago, candidates used to have to write a short paragraph explaining their campaign platform and goals. More time was also given to candidates to campaign, allowing them to put up posters and fliers around the school with their office goals.

Recent elections have significantly changed. Due to complaints from teachers about the time elections took away from instruction, the process has been noticeably simplified. Few candidates post any sort of campaign material around campus. Instead of voting on issues, students Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
Cache-Control: max-age=0

stead must choose from a list of names—turning the elections into a de facto popularity contest.

Candidates have not been required to give their campaign goals since the fall of 2007 and continue to not do so. Elections were moved to a table in the quad at lunch, drastically cutting student participation in elections. Although the school now has access to a campus-wide broadcast system, elections do not yet take advantage of this technology.

To expand student participation and voice in Saratoga’s government, the ASB needs to better convey its policies. Requirements for candidacy should be re-evaluated, especially when they contribute such an alarming apathy on the part of students. On top of that, any requirements should be clearly and widely publicized—not just right before elections when it is too late, but months in advance.

To address student apathy, ASB also needs to promote the selection of representatives from each third-period class. By expanding participation, student government will be significantly legitimized. If more students are involved, they are more likely to care what is going on. Lastly, the election process needs to be improved to make it more on the issues and less on the name recognition. Although it may cost class time, teachers should be willing to sacrifice several minutes if it means increasing students’ voice across campus.

When all officers are running unopposed, it’s time to make reforms.

3 views this week