Candidates fight for ballots, primary vote ends Tuesday
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 13:02
The Associated Students of Utah State University primary elections began Monday morning, but USU students shouldn’t hope to secure any handouts from candidates.
As primary elections continue through Tuesday afternoon and general elections begin Wednesday morning and end Thursday night, students should be advised that changes to election bylaws prevent candidates from distributing any incentives to potential voters.
In December, a committee comprised of ASUSU officers, staff members from the Student Involvement and Leadership Center and representatives from the office of the vice president of Student Services began revising the bylaws based on feedback from students, candidates and campus organizations.
“Each year we have students who have issues with certain sections of the bylaws and we pay attention to those,” said Jordan Hunt, Academic Senate president. “We’re not trying to make it more difficult than it needs to be and we make sure that we’re being fair. As far as this year, we did take in some of that feedback as we were going through the bylaws. We also went through each line to really evaluate what each section intended to do and how it was being applied and what kind of impacts it had.”
One of the main changes requires and encourages candidates to run on their platform, foregoing any election incentive giveaways.
“This is something we’ve never done before,” said Abigail Kingsford, ASUSU public relations director. “I would hope this will give students who are voting the opportunity to be more-informed voters. Some people are concerned that taking away the free giveaways on campus will disincentivize people to vote but I’m not sure how this will affect it.”
This will be a trial run for these changes, according to Riley Bradshaw, Engineering senator. As far as the number of voters is concerned, no one knows what results the changes will have.
“It will help us know next year whether they had the desired effect or whether we need to go back to the drawing board,” Bradshaw said. “I think it will be an interesting election because students will have to think outside of the box. I’m eager to see what they try.”
Candidates in the past relied on a tactic known as “couponing” to help students remember them when it came time to vote. A coupon for a local business was printed on the back of most candidate fliers. Looking to secure support, candidates were permitted to hand out fliers at voting stations fitted with laptops where constituents could electronically submit their ballot.
“You’d find the best coupon to give out so students would want to keep your flier,” Hunt said. “They’d hold on to it, look at it and use it. It was good advertisement for businesses and candidates, but you have the connection between handing them the flier and asking them to vote. You’re giving them the coupon and it’s basically buying the vote.”
Hunt said the committee could fix this problem by either getting rid of couponing or getting rid of voter stations.
“It’s in our best interest to promote voting,” Hunt said. “Now candidates can stay at their booths and have the voting laptop but no coupons.”
Couponing is just one example of a giveaway prohibited under the new version of the bylaws, Hunt said. Distributing merchandise or food of any kind to potential voters is considered bribery.
The committee hopes this change will bring out those voters who support the candidates’ platforms.
“If we lose voters because we didn’t entice them to vote with a coupon or doughnut, we haven’t really lost any quality votes,” Bradshaw said. “The people who care enough to look at the candidates and make an informed decision are the ones that would vote regardless of any incentives.”
Hunt said he believes the committee made significant progress with these changes. The committee’s goal was to ensure the election of those candidates best suited to serve the largest number of students in the best manner possible.
“My hope, and one of the reasons that we made this change, is that candidates will be forced to interest voters in themselves and their platforms rather than their handout,” Bradshaw said. “I’d hope that candidates are making an effort to connect more directly with student groups to sell themselves as candidates and that we will see a swing in the focus of campaigning from gimmicks and giveaways to campus issues and candidates’ qualifications.”