During this time of year, elections can seem all-consuming. Students pass around sheets in class scouting signatures, various hopefuls visit different clubs to talk about their platform and emails are sent reminding students to vote. However, there is a slightly more silent presence on Grounds coordinating all the different processes.
The University Board of Elections was established to supervise all University-wide elections for organizations such as Student Council, School Councils, the Honor Committee, the Judiciary Committee and residence halls. UBE works to ensure free and fair elections by creating consistent regulations across Grounds.
The organization sets the elections calendar and maintains the ballot of the University’s online voting system.
UBE Chair and third-year College student Casey Schmidt considers UBE central to student self-governance.
“Student self-governance is huge,” Schmidt said. “I like to say that UBE is the place where student self-governance is most alive.”
As chair, Schmidt works as a liaison between the various organizations, schools, classes and the University administration.
“It can be challenging to navigate our own rules and everyone else’s too,” Schmidt said. “[But], it’s a really cool perspective to see how all the different schools [and organizations] do their own thing, but we’re also bridging the gap at the same time.”
UBE is currently comprised of seven members. During the first weeks of the spring semester, UBE members work long hours to prepare for the election process.
“Once winter break is over, it’s info sessions, endorsements, et cetera in full speed,” Schmidt said. “We’re a tight knit group because we’re so small, and everyone has to pitch in.”
Toshali Randev, UBE technology chair and third-year Engineering student, handles the website and social media for the organization.
“UBE works year round to make sure all U.Va. elections are fair and transparent,” Randev said. “We hope to see increased traffic on our website, as it contains so much important information for both candidates and voters.”
In preparation for the upcoming elections, UBE has implemented a few changes to make the process easier.
“One of my biggest initiatives as chair was making it easier to run for positions,” Schmidt said. “It’s easy to get disinterested with the process — it seems like too much work — so I lowered the barriers to entry on a number of positions.”
UBE simplified the process by eliminating the signature requirement for numerous positions, such as those associated with each school’s student council — although school council presidents were still required to obtain signatures in order to appear on the ballot.
The organization also increased funding for campaign grants and is also working to institute polling stations on the first day of the voting period, .
“We want there to be a visible experience to give it more weight,” Schmidt said. “When it’s all online it’s so easy to feel that it doesn’t really matter.”
Finally, UBE worked to make the process less time consuming. The upcoming election period is shorter than previous years, with three days for voting and a shorter campaign window.
“We want people to get excited about it, act on it and then it’s done,” Schmidt said. “We want the energy to be high and for people to get invested so then they go vote.”