Sounding Off: Signature requirements are an unnecessary barrier in student elections

Illustration by Kaitlyn Tran/The Daily Campus

In the past when I’ve railed against student elections at UConn, I’ve focused on the elections themselves, but today I will focus on the preliminary steps to getting there. 

One procedure in particular that should not be part of the process is the requirement that candidates for positions like USG’s president, vice president, comptroller, chief diversity officer (CDO) and student trustee must acquire a set number of student signatures before appearing on the ballot. This is a redundant part of the system that only demonstrates how UConn has an incredible lack of faith in the student body’s willingness to vote. Additionally, it keeps an already small field of candidates even smaller than it could be. 

Let’s start with the positions of comptroller and CDO. For the Spring 2022 student elections, candidates for either position were required to acquire 50 student signatures before Feb. 15. It should be noted that one year ago, both positions received over 1,800 total votes in the election. In the CDO contest, one candidate received over 300 votes as a write-in, bypassing the preliminary signature requirement. For write-in candidates, all that is needed to appear on the ballot is 10 votes, so how does that make any sense? Candidates who go through the official process need 50 people to allow them to appear on the ballot, but unofficial tickets only need 10. At the very least, continuity would be appreciated. 

For the presidential/vice presidential tickets, 100 signatures were required to appear on the ballot. This number makes absolutely no sense in context with the previous election, as while the total number of eligible votes cast for president did eclipse the number of votes cast for CDO, this was only by two votes. A three-ticket race for president brought in 1,997 student votes, while a one-ticket race with a write-in second candidate got 1,995. If there were a significant number of students that voted only for president, but ignored the other races, it would make sense to have a higher preliminary threshold for president, but that is just not the case. 

Now, let’s look at an election with an even more unrepresentative signature barrier: student trustee. This year, there is an equation tied to how many signatures a candidate needs: 50 + 1% of the enrolled undergraduates at the campus which the candidate attends. For example, because Storrs campus has significantly more students enrolled than Stamford, Storrs students need 276 names while Stamford students need 79. While this is definitely more comprehensive than the comptroller, CDO and presidential requirements, it still puzzles me why it’s even there in the first place. For the trustee race, it’s clear that UConn Storrs students have a massive advantage, as they have a much more direct channel to the majority of the voter base. Sure, adding this checkpoint creates the illusion that the playing field is leveled a bit for candidates from satellite campuses, but do you know what else would do this? Letting them on the ballot immediately without the step in-between! 

Preliminary signature requirements are plagued by arbitrary requirements and unnecessary procedures. One thing to mention is that USG Senate candidates also had to complete a similar requirement, but it has been removed since 2020, and Senate seats continue to be filled without a hitch. 

As I’ve mentioned in multiple previous articles, the biggest problem with student elections at UConn is that nobody votes in them. While the 1,997 mark mentioned earlier in the article may seem like a good amount, even that is only about 10% of the population that’s eligible to vote. In order to encourage more voter participation, elections should be streamlined and made less complex. If you tell a potential voter they only have to go through one step in a process versus two steps, they’re more likely to stay engaged. A more streamlined system would also allow candidates to engage with the voters about their platforms for longer periods of time, as they wouldn’t have to spend that time begging for signatures just to become ballot-eligible. In short, anyone that wants to be on the ballot should be on the ballot. It would make the whole process a lot simpler. 

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