Student candidates, UBE prepare for next week’s elections
Third-year engineer Ross to run uncontested for Student Council president
“I can tell you now, a lot of people will be slinging doomsday rhetoric around about the slow death of student self-governance and apathy among students … But I think the real picture is a little rosier.” – Jalen Ross
With student elections just one week away, the University Board of Elections is finalizing preparations while candidates’ campaigns are officially in full swing.
Though many of the races are contested, third-year Engineering student Jalen Ross said he will run for the high-profile position of Student Council president unopposed. Fourth-year College student Eric McDaniel, the current Council president, won his election uncontested last year.
“I can tell you now, a lot of people will be slinging doomsday rhetoric around about the slow death of student self-governance and apathy among students,” Ross said. “And yes, uncontested elections at the highest level are a problem for our electoral system and for Student Council in particular. But I think the real picture is a little rosier.”
Ross, the current director of University relations for Council, said until a week ago the race was shaping up to be very competitive, but a potential competitor chose to exit the race for personal reasons.
Among the changes to this year’s elections process is a reduced window during which campaigning is allowed.
“They can’t start campaigning until we have all of their petitions, so it was delayed due to the snow,” Korupolu said. “However, it didn’t make a big difference in terms of the campaigning.”
On a larger scale, the UBE hopes to increase its presence this year to encourage voter turnout, according to UBE Chair Krishna Korupolu, a second-year College student. Last year, student turnout was 40.5 percent, an increase of eight percent from the year before.
The board plans to target turnout through the use of flyers and mass emails and plans to set up two polling events — one in Newcomb Hall and one in the Rotunda Dome Room.
“I’m encouraged to hear that the UBE will be sponsoring voting booths this year, and I think that’s a very tangible step forward for the organization,” Ross said. “I can see a future where they partner with other organizations on Grounds to encourage voter participation in electoral student self-governance, and that’s good news. The more of U.Va. that turns out to vote, the more truly representative our elections — and ultimately, student leaders — will be.”
Last year, the the board delayed announcing election results their system could not handle the increased voter turnout. To help prevent such delays and problems in the upcoming election, the board has introduced a new software, called Big Pulse.
“Unlike last year, we’ll get the results immediately,” Korupolu said. “The servers are out in California, and they have the capability of handling increased voter turnout.”
Korupolu said the system is working just as expected and it will provide the candidates with a sleeker and more accessible interface, where they are able to edit and monitor their information on the site.
Despite these infrastructural improvements, Ross said there are some things the board could have done better this election season.
“Even as someone who’s known for quite some time I’d be running for Student Council president, I found I had to be diligent in checking the UBE site regularly to stay on top of election news and deadlines,” Ross said. “For students a little less sure about running, that means it’s easy to miss important information.”
Candidates also had to attend mandatory information sessions, and Ross said he did not think the board adequately conveyed to potential candidates that these events were required.