Even though Weber State University Student Association positions are important, only some of the positions attract a significant amount of votes, and few students run for the available positions. Many senate positions end up running uncontested — if not initially vacant before another candidate is recommended.
Student Government Elections are held annually during spring semester at WSU, allowing students to vote for student presidential and vice presidential seats who lead the university throughout the academic year.
Student body President Bret Alexander believes more needs to be done to help ensure a better-represented office is accomplished with higher voter turnouts. These initiatives have included setting up official WSU social media accounts on platforms such as Instagram, giving out candy to students in between classes and much more.
According to Alexander, these initiatives happened after the 2017-18 elections, which had a significant drop in voter turnout. While the voter constituency consists of all students at Weber State University, only a fraction came out to vote.
Tara Peris, director of student involvement and leadership, believes students having to vote through WeberSync in the past was a large factor in the low numbers of students voting. According to activities Vice President Michelle Thao, voter turnout had been decreasing for years under WeberSync, and a solution had been under consideration for a long while. The current solution is to run the voting through Canvas.
“Aulola Moli, the past student body president, was the direct person who thought this would be a good change to encourage student voting turnout,” Thao said. “She got this idea during her Utah Student Association meeting, when she discovered that most other universities held their voting process on Canvas.”
The switch to Canvas, as well as other initiatives introduced by Moli and continued by Alexander, may have helped contribute to a higher voter turnout for 2018–19 and 2019–20.
According to Alexander, this was an all time high for WSUSA, which is something they hope to continue in the future.
“Last year had a good turnout for voters due to the use of marketing for elections week,” Thao said. “Usually the Student Involvement and Leadership has their intern help market the elections week. I think the elections committee did a great job spreading the word that elections were coming and raising awareness.”
Measuring success for the Student Senate is more difficult to pin down, as the number of constituencies can vary wildly between positions throughout the years. Legislative Vice President Kade Crittenden believes the best way to measure success is by the number of candidates running for a position. Crittenden explained that if only one person is running for a position, then they will automatically be elected.
For those who have run, they have found the process to be easier than what they previously anticipated.
“At the beginning of the spring semester, we host the election packets on our website and also have print copies,” Peris said.
She said that once the interested students meet with their academic advisor, they and the advisor will sign a Declaration of Candidacy after going over the rules and regulations regarding the campaign itself.
The 2020-2021 Declaration of Candidacy is due 5 p.m. on Feb. 7. A candidate must be a full-time student during the spring semester and have at least a grade point average of 2.5. Most of this can be accomplished ahead of time for any student looking to get a head start.
After the student is found to be eligible, they will then be required to attend a rules meeting the week before campaigning begins. There, they will meet the Student Elections Committee, who is appointed by the current president and legislative vice president.
One of the campaign rules is a maximum cap on spending for campaigning purposes, and in spring 2020, the cap is $500. If the candidate chooses to fund their campaign, it must come from their own personal funds, and the candidate must be able to provide documentation of their campaign spending. Candidates can accept donations, but these items must be declared as part of spending.
One of the most common disqualifications that occur among candidates is an inability to show what they spent on their campaign. If a student is running, it is recommended that the student keeps all their receipts until the very end. Once the campaign actually begins, candidates will have a lot of options to reach out to potential voters.
Many of the elected candidates spent the majority of their campaign speaking to students in person. According to Alexander, he spent campaign time hanging around bus stops and talking to students.
His strongest recommendation is to memorize an elevator speech. Having a short, 30-second long speech talking about who he was, why the student should vote and why they should vote for him was something he always tried to have on hand.
According to Thao, the strategies she observed during the many years she ran for office included personally talking with students and asking them to vote. Many are not aware that elections may be occurring. Thao said giving away free items such as water bottles and fruit snacks always attracts students.
Crittenden said an important component to his success was maintaining a network of friends and colleagues across the campus. Many students do not live on campus and spend a very short amount of time there before and after class. Having the ability to reach out to his constituents by word of mouth is important in an environment where they might not know of the elections from any other conventional means.