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University Board of Elections, student government gear up for 2019 elections

UJC, Honor to propose referenda

<p>Alex Smith-Scales, University Board of Elections chair, presents to the University Judiciary Committee about the upcoming election cycle.</p>

Alex Smith-Scales, University Board of Elections chair, presents to the University Judiciary Committee about the upcoming election cycle.

The University Board of Elections has begun preparing for its upcoming student election cycle, where candidates can run for positions on Student Council, Class Council, individual school councils, Honor Committee and the University Judiciary Committee.

UBE, a group of students who oversee elections and vet potential candidates, held two candidate information sessions in mid-January. Potential candidates had to attend one of the sessions or fill out an online quiz by last Friday at 4:00 p.m. to access a registration form to run. 

The registration form opens Monday at 10 a.m. Potential candidates must fill out the registration form by Friday at 4:00 p.m. to be eligible to run. The deadline for applying for campaign grants — which range from $50 to $150 depending on the position — is Friday at 4:00 p.m. as well.

Several positions — including Student Council president, vice president for administration and vice president for organizations, the president and vice president of each Class Council and the president of each school council — require petition signatures. Potential candidates must submit petition signatures by Feb. 18 at 4:00 p.m. to appear on the ballot, with Student Council president, vice president for administration and vice president for organizations needing the most signatures at 300. 

Several positions, such as those in Class Council, require potential candidates to meet with an advisor before running.

All candidates must complete interim campaign expenditure reports — due Feb. 19 at 12:00 p.m. — and final campaign expenditure reports — due March 3 at 5:00 p.m. There are no spending limits on campaigns.

Interviews with student endorsing organizations will run Feb. 13 through Feb. 18. Candidates may sign up for these interviews between Feb. 10 at 5:00 p.m. and Feb. 11 at 5:00 p.m. However, an endorsement interview is not necessary to run for a position. 

“Candidates actually aren’t required to complete a campaign grant app or endorsing interviews or campaign, really, if they [didn’t want] to,” said Alex Smith-Scales, chair of the University Board of Elections and a fourth-year College student.

Campaigning runs Feb. 21 at 10:00 a.m. to March 1 at 4:00 p.m. Several restrictions are in place for campaigning, including those specifying poster size limits and chalking locations. Examples of restricted chalking locations include brick paths and vertical surfaces. UBE is in charge of handling campaign violations, with violations transferred to UJC and Honor if necessary. 

Smith-Scales said this year’s process expands the timelines for both voting and campaigning. Last year, students had two days to vote, and this year, they have three. Last year, candidates had a week to campaign, and this year, they have eight days.

“We wanted to make sure we had ample time on our end to increase the election process by getting the word more out there and allowing more people to run,” Smith-Scales said. “By expanding the time that we have and deadlines for things, we should be able to reach more people, especially endorsement organizations, and increase voter turnout.”

Additionally, Smith-Scales said, there will be more polling stations available to students. Students may either vote at laptop stations run by non-biased parties or on their personal electronic devices, using a personalized link that takes them to their ballot.

Smith-Scales added that UBE plans to improve its social media presence and increase the number of endorsing organizations to encourage more students to vote. If organizations would like to participate in candidate endorsements, they must attend an information meeting on Saturday and register to become an endorsing organization on the UBE website. 

“We really hope that we can get the message out there better this year about voting and why it’s important to vote,” Smith-Scales said. “Our theme for voting this year is ‘Your Voice, Your UVA.’ We really want people to know that when you are actively voting, you are making a difference at U.Va., and you’re shaping the University for the better.”

In addition to choosing the next crop of student leaders, voters can decide whether to approve or reject various referenda on the ballot. Referenda proposals were due last Wednesday at 12:00 p.m., and petition signatures for referenda are due Feb. 15 at 12:00 p.m. Campaigning and voting periods for referenda are the same as for elections.

Honor and UJC have both already proposed referenda to appear on this year’s ballot. 

According to Kevin Warshaw, UJC chair and fourth-year Engineering student, two UJC referenda are expected to appear on the ballot and have already been approved by the Office of University Counsel for Constitution and Bylaw Changes. Warshaw said that one proposes to make the UJC constitution’s language gender-neutral. The other proposes to clarify the constitution’s statute of limitations for submitting complaints in order to help the committee address complaints more efficiently. 

Honor passed a referendum during the 2018 elections that integrated gender-neutral pronouns in its constitution, with 83.5 percent of student voters voting in favor. 

The Honor Committee voted 18-1 during a meeting last Sunday to include an “Impeachment Amendment” referendum on the ballot. According to Ory Streeter, Honor Committee chair and Medical student, the proposed constitutional change would expand the Committee’s ability to remove members.

Presently, a member can only be removed if a majority of voters in a recall election vote for the member’s removal and if 10 percent of the member’s school signs a petition for their removal. If the Impeachment Amendment is passed, the member can also be removed if four-fifths of the Committee votes to remove said member and if 10 percent of the member’s school signs a petition for their removal.

Streeter said that although there is no “specific impetus” driving the proposal, the Committee has discussed this amendment before.

“In practice, schools are rarely attuned to the shortcomings of their representatives,” Streeter said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “The expectation that the schools be solely responsible for the accountability of their representatives is therefore unfair. And recall elections are exceedingly rare events at our modern University.”

Streeter said the referendum would require the approval of 60 percent of voting students with at least 10 percent of the student body voting. The referendum has been approved by University Counsel. 

Students may vote online starting Feb. 26 at 10:00 a.m. until March 1 at 4:00 p.m. Results will be announced March 1 at 5:00 p.m.