Student Association views election changes as long overdue

SA members explain reasoning behind VP, president and SUNY delegate election changes

The Spectrum

Students walking into the voting booth next year will see fewer names on the ballot and vote for each executive board member separately.

On Wednesday night, the Student Association Senate and Assembly passed two changes to the election process. Most SA student leaders believe the change was both constructive and necessary to SA.

The Assembly passed an amendment changing the constitution to make presidential and vice presidential candidates run on separate ballots. SA Senate had an emergency meeting the same night and passed an amendment that gives the president the ability to appoint SUNY delegates.

Matt Siwiec, the elections and credentials chair, spearheaded the changes to the election process and brought them to the Assembly and Senate.

The rule of the two candidates being on the same ballot, however, has not always been a part of the election process.

In 2002, SA Senate passed an amendment that required presidential and vice-presidential candidates to run on a single ticket.

James Ingram, president-elect, thinks the separation will ensure "that all three elected Student Association executive board members are those who the majority of the students wanted to fill those positions."

Ingram voted to abstain from the passing of the amendment because he felt the topic needed more time for discussion.

Daniel Giles, Senate chair, believes it will be a "rare occurrence" for a president and vice president to be from different parties.

"If it happens, the student body will probably have had a good reason for doing so," Giles said. "A weak vice president can't hide behind a strong president any more."

Travis Nemmer, a former SA president, said the separation of the presidential and vice presidential ballot is "long overdue."

"They do fundamentally different jobs," Nemmer said. "You don't need those people to be on the same party. You don't need them to work particularly closely together throughout the year."

Melissa Kathan, speaker for the Assembly, also believed the change has been long needed.

A concern for the 2002 Senate was that personal or political views might come between elected candidates if they were from different parties and time may be wasted solving these internal problems.

"More often than not they are going to realize that 'Hey, we have a job to do,'" Nemmer said. "The election is over so let's put our differences aside - start working for the good of the students."

The argument can be made that those issues of "bickering and wasting time" are still happening with people on the same ticket, according to Siwiec.

Giles said this year, there was "tension behind closed doors" and the problems at the end of the year between the members were "dangerously close to boiling over." But he feels the situation eventually worked out.

Ingram realizes the change is an increase in presidential power, but it does not give the president more power than it deserves, he said. He remarked the president currently has the power to make appointments that may be more "impactful" than the delegates such as members to Sub-Board I, Inc.

"That is a powerful appointment in itself because the Sub-Board manages so much money," Ingram said.

Kathan said the Assembly liked that other SUNY schools appoint their delegates.

Siwiec said previous parties would often choose delegates based how many votes the candidate would be able to gather.

For this past election, Ingram and Evan Chen, vice president-elect, received 1,201 votes. The second highest amount of votes went to Hayley Ross, a current SUNY delegate, who was re-elected with 1,175 votes.

"It is just more efficient for the sake of the organization to appoint them because we want to have people who are getting the votes themselves as opposed to relying on other people," Siwiec said.

Siwiec believes by removing the required delegate positions, more students may decide to run for the executive board positions, and it will bolster the legitimacy of the votes. Independent candidates will no longer have to fill up four more positions to run for the executive board.

Nemmer thinks this will completely change the election process, but it wouldn't necessarily be in a negative way.

"You are going to see a lot more people running for president and vice president now," Nemmer said. "Because beforehand, if you couldn't fill up a full ticket of ballots - a president, vice president, treasurer and four delegates - you couldn't run, you would get crushed."

Giles said he suggested to Siwiec a system that "delegates [would] run divorced from e-board parties." He potentially sees problems where a presidential candidate may promise the delegate position to a student to gain support.

Siwiec thinks this point goes along with any other appointed position at SA.

The changes will be in affect for the 2015-16 executive board.