The Associated Students of Portland State University hosted three mandatory orientations last week to prepare candidates for upcoming elections. In attendance were approximately 40 candidates who’ve met the requirements to run for president, vice president, senate and Student Fee Committee member positions.
At the end of May, students will vote to elect a president/vice president team, 15 senators and seven SFC members. The candidate registration this year is up significantly from last year.
The candidates running make up three president and vice president pairs, 20 potential senators and 16 running for SFC positions. The Elections Board has also registered three slates, or platforms so far: Take Back PSU, Pheonix and Sam, and Students for a Better Tomorrow, Today. There are 42 candidates total.
“When I saw that there are more candidates running than open positions, that was exciting. We actually have a competition,” said Elections Board member Adam Wunische. “[Last year] there weren’t enough senators running to fill the open spots, so they had no incentive to campaign. If one person showed up to vote they knew they were guaranteed to get it.”
With campaigning having kicked off on May 5, students will participate in candidate meet-and-greets on May 6. “The point of the meet-and-greets is for folks who are not declared on any slates yet to mingle with each other,” said Candace Avalos, ASPSU adviser. “They don’t have to be on a slate. It’s not a requirement, but it’s a strategy. We want to offer an opportunity for candidates to meet people.”
Slates need to be declared to the Elections Board by May 9.
ASPSU adopted an updated set of elections bylaws in March 2014. “The past version was pretty weak. We’re hoping to have a much more professional election this year,” Wunische added in an email.
The new bylaws reflect stipulations for an ethical campaign. “We’ve gotten complaints from people who are in ASPSU now who have seen campaigning practices they have a problem with,” Wunische said. In the past, candidates have walked around with cell phones asking people to vote on the spot and using other techniques that cause pressure on student voters.
“If you are physically present, you’re causing pressure. That’s what causes coercion,” said Krystine McCants, SFC chair. The Election Board’s bylaws have created more structure to prevent this type of coercion from occurring. Campaigning candidates must follow strict guidelines.
Candidates and slates have a $400 spending cap for anything they plan to give away to students. These funds will come directly from a candidate’s own funding. Students will not be allowed to use university resources for campaigning, but they can be endorsed by student organizations. University departments are not permitted to endorse any candidates.
Bylaw stipulations also include appropriate places to hang posters, advertise with chalk and approach students. Students cannot campaign within 25 feet of polling stations. Polling stations, per the bylaws, are any device used by more than one person to cast votes in the election.
“Any place that has more than a certain number of computers is considered a polling station. That includes resource centers and computer labs,” Avalos said.
The candidate orientation covered the consequences for students who do not follow the bylaws. “We don’t really have to watch candidates because they watch each other,” Avalos said.
During elections, the Elections Board meets weekly to address any reported infractions. “Infractions are addressed on a case-by-case basis by the board. We need to use the context. It’s a conversation. No decision will be made before you have had a chance to talk about it,” Avalos added. Five infraction points disqualify a candidate from the election.
Beginning May 8, candidates will participate in public debates. The first of these is the presidential and vice presidential debate. The SFC debate is May 13. The debates will pull questions from two sources: student media and students physically present at the debate. “We’ll also have a live twitter feed coming in because KPSU is planning to broadcast it live,” Wunische said.
On May 15, candidates will participate in a town hall formatted senate debate. “The senate meeting is more casual. It is for senators, but it’s also for everyone. It’s a chance for students to mingle with everyone who’s running,” Avalos said.
ASPSU continues its emphasis this year to improve student voter participation. “Last year we got less than one percent of the students to vote,” Wunische said. ASPSU members have encouraged candidates to promote voting in general to the student body, even if not for them specifically. Avalos advised candidates to begin campaigning right away.
Voter polls open May 16 and close May 23. Students enrolled in at least one credit during spring term are eligible to vote at elections.aspsu.pdx.edu.