Following Graduate student Krit Chanwong’s decision to step down as chair of the University Board of Elections in August, the organization has internally appointed third-year Commerce student Luke Lamberson as chair. Given a history of turnover in the position, Lamberson hopes to both promote continuity within UBE leadership and increase voter turnout in general elections.
Appointed as chair during last spring’s elections, Chanwong formally resigned Aug. 8. He served as UBE referendum and documentation liaison last year, meaning he was responsible for working with referendum sponsors and managing signatures.
Chanwong cited an increased workload after entering graduate school as the reason behind his departure.
“I'm a graduate student now and it feels like school is pretty tough on its own, besides having to deal with [elections],” Chanwong said.
UBE manages the electoral process for selecting representatives for Student Council, Honor Committee, University Judiciary Committee and Class Council. With general elections held every spring and new student elections every fall, the organization aims to promote student self-governance on Grounds.
Lamberson volunteered for the role of chair after receiving news of the opening and was appointed internally by the UBE board Aug 20. This group consists of the chair, the vice-chair for rules and administration, the vice-chair for candidates and the vice-chair for marking and outreach.
Lamerson’s appointment was recently confirmed by Nabeel Raza, chair of the University Judiciary Committee and fourth-year College student, Gabrielle Bray, chair of the Honor Committee and fourth-year College student, Sophia Liao, president of Fourth Year Trustees and fourth-year College student and Ceci Cain, president of Student Council and graduate student.
This marks the second year in a row the chair of UBE has resigned. Last year’s chair also unexpectedly resigned mid-October, leaving her successor, fourth-year College student Max Bresticker, to take over the position in November.
Bresticker spoke to the difficulties he faced in his transition due to his late entrance into the role and the general lack of experience among other UBE members at the time.
“I took over UBE when I was the only person who was still a student at U.Va. with any election experience,” Bresticker said in an email statement to the Cavalier Daily. “Additionally, the organizational advisors were both new to the job, so I had to teach myself how to do all aspects of the [organization] and rebuild the organization from the ground up.”
During his time as the replacement chair, Bresticker faced backlash from Andy Chambers, former chair of the Honor Committee and Class of 2022 alumnus, over his intention to continue with online voting for elections and reduce the number of signatures needed on petitions. In a heated email exchange, Chambers later refused to approve of Bresitcker’s selected co-chairs and urged UBE to increase the number of votes needed to pass referendum.
This year, Bresticker said he feels confident in Lamberson’s transition, adding that his August appointment will give him time to adjust before elections.
“Last year we had much more stressful circumstances and a compressed schedule, but still managed to run a secure and efficient election,” Bresticker said. “Luke and the rest of the board are all very capable people with significant experience from last year, so I’m positive everything will turn out great this spring.”
Though no longer a member of the UBE, Chanwong voted for Lamberson as his replacement before departing and spoke supportively of his successor.
“I think the most important task for UBE is to increase voter turnout, no matter the cost,” Chanwong said. “And so I think [Lamberson] is very qualified to do that.”
UBE elections consistently see low voter turnout. In recent years, however, participation has been higher, with 41.6 percent of students voting in spring 2021 and 23.8 percent of students voting in spring 2022.
Drawing upon his time working as director of research and investigation, Lamberson said that he primarily aims to promote student participation in upcoming elections. He will also continue to support secure online voting given its ability to engage more students.
“For me, it's been troubling seeing U.Va prides itself on student self governance, but so few people actually participate in that self governance,” Lamberson said. “And I really hope that I can play a larger role in changing that and encouraging more people to come out and vote and get involved.”
In reference to the series of turnovers preceding his term as chair, Lamberson explained that he hopes to encourage UBE members to stay with the organization in order to promote efficiency and further long-term goals.
“We've lost a lot of institutional knowledge through the cracks with rapid turnover,” Lamberson said. “We need to year-to-year have more continuity, so that we don't have to spend the fall figuring out everything that we need to do, and instead can hit the ground running.”