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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Ballot barriers

    Simple changes could boost turnout, ensure competent candidates

    Last night, a new slate of student leaders was voted into office in general elections for ASUA.

    As usual, voter turnout was less than spectacular – 3553 students, or about 9.7 percent of eligible voters. But this year, even the candidates forgot to show up. There was no presidential challenger, no vice-presidential candidates eliminated in the primaries and a senate field of only 13 students, meaning most of those who bothered to fill out the correct forms and collect a few signatures will soon be sworn
    into office.

    What went wrong? It’s easy to chalk up poor participation to student apathy, plea for “”increased awareness”” and call it a day. After all, that’s what elections officials for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona have been doing for years. But it’s more than indifference that keeps students from heading to the polls and candidates from choosing to run for office. If student leaders hope to earn the voter turnout necessary for a real mandate, and draw participation from competent candidates, they should consider eliminating two big obstacles that currently impede participation: A hurried campaign schedule and a complicated elections code.

    This year’s election season officially started Feb. 18, giving candidates a full three weeks to campaign before primary elections. That’s a sensible amount of time, especially for a year like this, in which the primary was essentially meaningless. But, like last year’s truncated timeline, candidates had only one week to campaign when it counts, between the primary and general elections. The abbreviated schedule may be nice for candidates, who can head off for spring break secure in their new positions, but it’s bad for voters, who simply don’t have the necessary time to educate themselves and get excited about elections. Pushing primaries – the real kickoff for serious campaigning – a bit earlier, and allowing an extra week before the final vote would give voters a better opportunity to read platforms, get involved, and be informed.

    Second, ASUA ought to relax some of the more draconian restrictions in their complicated elections code. With strict and detailed limits on access (hundreds of signatures required for a spot on the ballot, advance approval of write-in candidates), speech (no more than one banner per candidate, only one name on each poster, all materials checked and approved by the elections commissioner) and spending (from a mere $400 for presidential candidates to a paltry $200 for senators), it’s no wonder that student’s aren’t aware and involved. Further, barriers to entry ensure that those candidates great at soliciting signatures get spots on the ballot, rewarding popularity over substance. The platforms of many of this year’s candidates make this eminently clear.

    It’s well within the power of student leaders to ensure exciting elections and legitimate turnout. They just have to be willing to give the students who are both voters and candidates a little
    more control.

    Editorials are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members.
    They are Sarah Devlin, Allison Hornick, Christina Jelly, Melissa Krueger, Evan Lisull and Connor Mendenhall.

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