ASUCD Senate election season officially began on Tuesday when petitions for candidacy were made available in 348 Memorial Union.
The Nov. 12 and 13 online election will replace half of the senate’s twelve senators, while the other six rotate out after winter quarter’s elections. Potential candidates must obtain 125 student signatures, be a registered student in good academic standing and return all necessary paperwork to 348 Memorial Union by 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
“After [candidates] turn in the paperwork, they must go through a mandatory candidate workshop to learn about the rules and regulations,” said Adam Thongsavat, ASUCD Elections Committee chair. “After that, they submit candidate statements and the Elections Committee provides them with 500 copies of their platform flier, AGTV 30-second commercials aired in the Coho and participation in the debate and dorm forum.”
Candidate statements are due on Oct. 27 and will be available online during the voting period at elections.ucdavis.edu. The senate candidates will meet in a debate co-sponsored by The California Aggie on Nov. 6 at noon in the Coho as well as in the Dorm Forum on Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. in Regan Hall.
Candidates are held to a $250 spending limit and must disclose all donations and provide the Elections Committee with receipts for all expenditures.
“It just helps ensure that no one can buy an election,” Thongsavat said.
Since 2003, ASUCD has used a choice voting system in which voters rank candidates in order of preference. If a student’s first choice candidate either wins with votes to spare or fails to meet a minimum vote threshold, that student’s vote goes toward their next choice candidate. Proponents of choice voting say this helps ensure the election outcome represents an accurate cross-section of voters’ preferences.
“Instead of having people vote strategically for the lesser of two evils, people can rank their choices,” Thongsavat said. “It’s more democratic and gives more voice to people whose candidate might not get as much publicity.”
The senate is unofficially separated into two slates – GO and L.E.A.D. – which are similar to political parties. The organizations aim to provide a support system to their candidates and senators by working as a coalition.
L.E.A.D., which stands for Leadership, Empowerment, Activism and Determination, was founded in winter 2000 and currently has eight active senators. L.E.A.D.’s goals include promoting diversity and social justice, advocating concern for the environment to the university and guaranteeing integrity and transparency in student government, according to the slate’s mission statement.
The GO slate is an offshoot of the now inactive Student Focus party and was formally created in 2007. The slate, which currently has two active senators, aims to “empower and engage” students to better the undergraduate experience as well as to nurture the relationship among students, the Davis community and other UC campuses, according to GO’s mission statement.
Potential candidates also have the option of running unaffiliated, as an independent. There are currently two such students serving in the Senate.
“I didn’t know anything about ASUCD before I ran,” said independent Senator Joe Chatham. “Campaigning is a lot of fun but stressful. It’s really not as hard as people say, though. You really don’t need all the connections people talk about.”
ASUCD and the Elections Committee are aiming to increase voter turnout this year. In fall 2007, the election saw a 20 percent turnout – approximately 4,500 people – while the winter 2008 election had a dismal 12 percent.
“Two thousand to 4,000 MD people vote for the group that has control over a $10 million annual budget,” Chatham said. “That’s a pretty big chunk of student money. It would be great to have more people involved.”
ASUCD senators are responsible for approving the budget that funds student-run organizations such Unitrans and the ASUCD Coffee House, initiating new projects, voting and introducing legislation as well as serving as a liaison between students and the administration.
“ASUCD is a great way to get involved on the UC Davis campus whether it be in a unit, commission or on the senate,” said independent Senator Rebecca Lovell. “My term on the ASUCD Senate has been like an interactive class and has given me hands-on experiences with politics and legislation that are not always attainable through academic courses.”
Senator Rebecca Schwartz of L.E.A.D. said ASUCD is an untapped resource for many students.
“That is the primary reason why I chose to run for Senate,” she said. “I wanted to make ASUCD more visible to students on campus, to help them find their niche.”
Senators are required to go to weekly ASUCD Senate meetings in the Mee Room of the MU every Thursday at 6:10 p.m. as well as hold weekly office hours and attend a commission meeting. Senators receive a weekly stipend of $49 and Chatham estimates they work between 6 and 20 hours per week.
“Don’t worry too much about the time commitment because you can schedule things around your classes, only the senate meetings are set in stone,” Chatham said.
While campaigning can get pretty competitive, Senator Chris Dietrich of GO encourages potential candidates to focus on reaching as many students as possible.
“I would also urge them to forget about any petty competitions that happen during the election and to work together with whoever gets elected to the senate,” Dietrich said. “The job is a tough one, but it is worthwhile because it gives you a great opportunity to serve your fellow students, and you must never forget that they are the ones that put you there.”
ALYSOUN BONDE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.