By Nicholas Shigo, Staff Writer
The UConn Undergraduate Student Government discussed revisions to the bylaws governing elections practices presented by the Elections Oversight Committee (EOC) at caucus Wednesday.
EOC Chair Kailee Himes was tasked with revising the rules last semester. She said revisions focused on resolving issues in past elections, limiting grey areas in the rules and revamping rules that have not been changed in at least four years.
“This election is a new election,” Himes said. “We don’t have to do things the same way.”
Many elections in previous years have been decided by one candidate being disqualified. Last year’s presidential race between Mark Sargent and Carlyle Bethel ended with Bethel’s disqualification on grounds of lacking attendance at Senate meetings.
Main revision points include limitations on campaigning at USG sponsored events, guidelines on writ-in candidates, rosters for campaign teams, financial restrictions of candidates and how to deal with any rules violations by candidates.
After almost three hours of discussion and debate, members agreed on a rough form of the new regulations. They will be reviewed by the EOC and voted on at a Senate Nov 19 meeting.
As of now, candidates for election will be responsible for a roster of members of their campaign team. Only those listed will be able to actively campaign in the Student Union, dining halls and residences.
It was also decided that campaign finances will have a set cap, with USG providing funding for each candidate up to that limit. A proposed limit of $500 was discussed, but a final decision has not yet been made.
“This will encourage more people to run. Right now it is extremely difficult to run, financially,” Senator Rachel Conboy said during debate.
It was proposed that candidates will have to have a certain number of signatures from the constituency they are running for that is equal to a fraction of the total signatures required to be eligible to run. Himes said this is to ensure the candidates are representative of their constituency. Write-in candidates will also have to earn a number of votes equal to the required signatures. That cannot simply win the seat as they do now.
Discussion on how best to penalize violations of campaign regulations took up a large portion of caucus. Senators discussed the possible benefits and hazards of a strike system or point-based system of counting violations.
Senators brought up issues with both systems, saying that they gave candidates a way to break rules a certain number of times and still being able to compete unimpeded. Himes said that this issue, and problems with violations not explicitly outlined in the rules are being worked on.
“There’s a big grey area now, and we’re trying to cut it down to a smaller grey area,” Himes said.
Eventually, it was decided that a combination of the two will be used. Candidates can face a judiciary hearing if they exceed a number of violation points accumulated by breaking campaign rules or a certain number of violations. Points would be scaled based on the severity of the infraction, with minor infringements earning only a few points and larger issues gaining more points.
Senator Daniel Byrd said that the long and sometimes heated discussion is natural when ideas are suggested that not everyone agrees with.
“I’m glad we got to see what EOC proposed and got input on it,” Byrd said.