Election reform

Senate, Board of Elections approve changes to election cycle

By: Taylor Fulkerson ~Managing Editor~

The Board of Elections announced that drastic changes to student elections will happen within the next academic year in a press release on Nov. 11. The number of elections will be decreased from the current three — a senate race in the fall for first-years, an executive election in February and an election for at-large senators, who can be from any class year, in the spring — to only two elections, with one in October and another in November.

The change “will streamline the election process,” according to the press release, giving first-years a chance to acclimate themselves to Xavier, reducing apathy among sitting senators and reducing “voter burnout” by holding an executive election in October and a general senatorial race in November. “The new terms for elected officials will be from January until December,” the press release said.

“Under the new system, everyone’s senators are up for election so it facilitates increased engagement on both the parts of students and senators. In addition, the altered cycle eliminates the ‘summer slump’ on behalf of senators and moves the cycle of production to the center of the school year,” Board of Elections Chair Stephen Coulter said in an interview.
Increased student interest will also help voter turnout, which has suffered in recent years, according to Coulter and Assistant Director of Student Involvement Molly Dugan. In the past few years, executive elections have attracted voters, while interest declined for the following general elections.

“We can capitalize on the buzz generated by the executive election and leverage that for senate elections,” Dugan said. “The process won’t be as drawn out, which will hopefully increase interest in the election process.”

With the advantages, there will be some severe drawbacks, including a complicated transition to the new election cycle. “The upcoming executive election will be victim of a condensed term, while the transitional term for senators will allow for consistency on the current (Student Government Association),” Coulter said.

The transition process will involve grandfathering in current senators for next year if they choose to remain and holding an election in the spring to fill vacant seats. The executive election will be held according to the previous schedule in spring 2015, however, with another election on the schedule for October 2015.

The change is not anticipated to affect most clubs on campus, however.
As Dugan noted, the new schedule reflects practices at other Jesuit institutions. “We based our new model off several aspirant institutions such as Creighton and we are confident it will work,” she said.

The hiccups should be temporary, however. Besides streamlining the process, the long-term advantages are anticipated to make both SGA executives and senators more effective forces on campus. Executives will spend time in office before drafting a budget under the new system. “We think it will be particularly helpful during organization budgeting, which in the past had taken place as tickets were transferring responsibilities from one to another,” Dugan said.
The new schedule should also ensure that senators can better represent students on campus. “This new cycle allows (the Office of Student Involvement) to provide strong training and support for the senators, as they will all begin their term together,” Dugan said