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Student Senate discusses the campaigning process for future

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If all the resolutions posed at Wednesday’s Ohio University Student Senate meeting pass, elections will look very different this spring.

Much of the time was spent discussing resolutions proposed by the elections committee that would impact the electoral process for Student Senate.

Led by Lead Parliamentarian Landen Lama, the elections committee set out to find solutions regarding three main issues in the electoral process. The issues at hand were the campaigning period, financial restrictions and the structure in which candidates run for senate.

The elections committee collected research from ten universities when preparing their own legislation, including the University of Connecticut and the University of Oregon. Looking at other schools’ student government electoral processes gave the committee an opportunity to see what was working around the country and to develop a baseline for Ohio University’s structure.

Beginning with campaign structure, Lama and other members of the committee wanted to create equality between those running independently and those running as a part of a ticket.

One resolution stated that for executive members, Student Appropriations Commission at-large senators and current at-large senators would run under a ticket, while college and residential senators would run as independent candidates.

The proposed ticket model would consist of 17 individuals, including a president, vice president, treasurer, SAC senators and other at-larges consisting of council members and senators. This would be a departure from the current ticket size, which is 34 candidates.

Decreasing the size of political tickets, according to committee member Jacob Haskins, would make running as an independent more viable and would “make everything more democratic.”

Moving forward, the committee also proposed a more structured timeline of elections for the future, including a distinction between passive campaigning and active campaigning. In the past, all campaigning has fallen under the active category.

Under new passive campaigning policies, compared to a soft opening for a business, candidates will be allowed to set up social media accounts and amass a following. They will also be allowed to involve themselves as candidates in discussion with various social organizations to plan for meetings.

This proposal also includes the addition of a transition period for elected officials, occurring between April 4 and 20.

The next area of the election process the committee set out to improve was the opportunity for candidate accountability. All members of the committee felt that there was a need for an increased voice from those running and proposed Resolution 1516-64, which would create debates for candidates.

Executive tickets will have no less than two debates, and independent candidates will have no less than one debate. Having debates will reveal candidates qualified to be in office and expose those who were hoping to be a shoo-in riding on the “coattails of executives,” Lama said.

“Speaking as an independent, I would have loved to have this kind of debate when I was running,” committee member Andrew Price said. “It would’ve helped me to get my name out there.”

The elections committee also created several proposals to change campaign funding.

Resolution 1516-61 suggested an increase in the finance cap for campaigns. Previously capped at roughly $500, the Committee proposed that those running under a ticket be able to accumulate up to $2,600 while independents would be capped at $900.

A separate proposal would limit individual donors to a maximum of $150, and student organizations to a maximum of $400.

Resolution 1516-63 suggested there be no cap on the number of donors a candidate may have so long as they do not pass their financial cap. Furthermore, in-kind donations (both goods and services) would be separate from the financial cap and would be restrained to an estimation of roughly $100

Senators moved to table most resolutions because they felt too much information had been thrown at them.

The only Resolution discussed by the elections committee that was voted on was Resolution 1516-64, which focused on creating debates, which passed unanimously.

The night ended with a note from Gabby Bacha, president of the Student Senate, who stressed the importance of communication when planning the agenda of future meetings, as many senate members were overwhelmed by how extensive the Election’s Committee’s discussion was.

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