Newly elected AS VP for Business Operations Nate Jo // Photo by Rachel Alexander
Changes to the Associated Students Election Codes leveled the playing field for a historic special election in February.
The special election was for the position of AS VP for Business Operations, which was vacated after a recall election earlier in February.
The AS Board of Directors approved updates to their election codes and special election codes at their meeting on Feb. 8. The changes were written by AS Elections Coordinator Alec Willis who said the recent recall and special elections were the first in Western’s history and that they pushed him to make changes so the elections would run more smoothly.
“Due to the fact that this is unprecedented, we’ve had to sometimes build the plane as we were flying it,” Willis said.
The board clarified language in their standard election codes about how involved AS employees can be in student campaigns for AS positions, Natasha Hessami, AS VP for Governmental Affairs, said. At the AS board meeting on Feb. 8, a student asked if they could receive advice from AS employees, as they have valuable information and knowledge of AS operations they can offer, Hessami said.
“We wanted to even the playing field so that board elections are not always a funnel of AS employees. It allows students who are not previously engaged in the AS to have that opportunity,” Hessami said.
“‘Work on a campaign,’ as used in Section 2, Cl. IV, for the purpose of this code, is defined as, but it not limited to, distribution of physical campaign materials, verbal campaigning, and management or active participation in a social media pages, or use of personal resources. ‘Work’ is not defined as advice and conversation about the position, or campaigning in general,” according to the AS board meeting minutes from Feb. 8. AS board members are not allowed to endorse any student candidates.
The AS Election Code had previously stated that recall and special elections would follow the same codes as standard spring elections for AS positions. Willis said that while most of the same codes could be used, some of the codes needed to be updated for the shortened election period of the special election.
The code now states that special elections will refer to the last passed Recall Election Code.
The new AS codes limit the amount of campaign expenditures a candidate can make to $50 for the special election, according to Willis. There is no budget set aside for special elections, so the funding for student campaigns comes from the Services and Activities budget that regular spring elections funds come from, according to Hessami.
In addition, the number of signatures needed to file as a candidate for the special election was lowered from 100 student signatures to 50, according to Hessami.
The recall election and special election followed a student senate election earlier in fall of this year. Hessami recognized the historic significance of the elections.
“Usually at this point in the year we’ve had zero elections but we’re already at three. It’s been a very unusual year in general,” Hessami said.
The AS will be dissolving the AS VP for Business Operations at the end of this school year.
“Students at Western care about the AS and care about making a difference in the AS, even in positions that are being phased out, which I think is really inspiring,” Willis said.
Garrett Rahn, a first year at Western, said he’s pleased the special election is happening quickly but doesn’t think there’s enough student involvement in what the AS is doing. He added that issues regarding the AS are less prevalent in his life than other things happening on campus.
“I can find out more easily about open mic than what’s going on with student government,” Rahn said.
This sentiment was shared by Colleen Sawyer, a third-year urban planning student, who said she hopes the next AS VP for Business Operations will be more prepared and enthusiastic about their job than the previous person was.
“Besides campaigning week when they have posters all around Red Square and seeing their faces and posters, I haven’t had any kind of interaction with the AS board. I feel like as a student, and maybe other students feel the same way, I have no idea what’s going on up there,” Sawyer said. “I think that’s why the whole thing caught fire so much, because it’s so surprising that something so s—tty could be happening.”
Hessami said she hopes the publicity around the special and recall elections will increase turnout for the upcoming spring elections for all AS positions.
“Last year, three of the positions ran unopposed and that’s kind of why we had the issues we had around our VP for Business Operations,” Hessami said. “We’re hoping that this publicity and excitement and obvious interest in the special election for the VP for Business and Operations will carry forward and will have a very robust and strong candidate pool for every position that’s being elected in spring.”