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Uncontested USG election results unsurprising

USG contestants ran largely unopposed this year. Whether the process is fair and democratic is up for debate. (MANJU SHIVACHARAN / THE STATESMAN)
USG contestants ran largely unopposed this year. Whether the process is fair and democratic is up for debate. (MANJU SHIVACHARAN / THE STATESMAN)

by Ryan Wolf and Will Welch

Undergraduate Student Government elections closed on Friday, officially establishing junior biology major Garry Lachhar as the next president of USG and making the $99.50 student activity fee mandatory for undergraduate students for the next two years.

Very few students voted in this year’s elections compared to last year. The activity fee ballot initiative received the most votes—808 students were in favor of keeping the fee mandatory and 369 were against it. Lachhar received 839 votes compared to the 1,260 votes current USG President Adil Hussain received last year. A total of 2,162 students voted in last year’s presidential race.

But Lachhar, who ran unopposed, would have won the position with only one vote, as would the six other candidates running for executive council positions and the three candidates running for class representative positions.

The number of uncontested elections this year was a result of the petitioning process, which requires candidates to submit as certain number of signatures from students to appear on the official ballot. Though many students filed to run in the elections, few actually turned in the petition form.

“I had originally received 60 intent forms,” USG Elections Board Chair Jacqueline Wall said. “When it came time for the petitioning forms to be handed in, I was surprised when only 36 students had completed the process and turned them in to us.”

To her knowledge, USG has never seen such a large number of uncontested elections before.

The petition process requires 600 signatures from students to run for President, Executive Vice President or Treasurer. It requires 400 signatures to run for Vice President of Academic Affairs, Vice President of Student Life, Vice President of Communications or Vice President of Clubs and Organizations.

Despite the number uncontested positions, the USG Elections Board does not have provisions for write-in candidates or votes against candidates on the ballot.

“There was never any concern raised to us about having the ability to write in for elections,” Wall said. “Since there is no precedent on such a procedure, we didn’t investigate the possibility.

“The ability to do write-ins can be investigated further,” she continued. “But we will need to look into the feasibility of doing this from a technological standpoint.”

For the coming years, the Elections Board will try to make changes to avoid the situation from repeating itself.

“Going forward, we would like to start the elections process earlier and see if getting the word out sooner has any effect on preventing this from happening,” Wall said.

The USG election process allows for candidates to form parties. Thirty-four of the 36 candidates who ran were part of “The Actual Party.” The two candidates who did not run with the party, Michael Lavina and Stephanie Kaczynski, did not win their positions.

Current senators Vincent Justiniano and James Mutino, who did run with “The Actual Party,” were not re-elected.

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