Campaign trail gets crowded

Jessie Markovetz

As the second week of campaigning for student government offices draws to a close, there are a few more faces than usual for the elections commission to keep track of.

Overall there are 23 candidates vying for 10 executive positions in the Student Government Association, the highest overall number in at least the last decade.

“This hopefully shows a lot about what student government can accomplish … in shaping the life of the University,” said Tom Mogan, director of Student Development and the man who directs the elections commission.

Among those seeking office are five tickets looking to win the presidency for the fall, the highest number in five years. Six students are looking to fill three seats in the senate for commerce and finance, and the engineering and nursing schools each have two candidates battling over one position.

Only the science and arts candidates are assured victory, as only one student is running for the science senator position. Two students will fill arts seats, and next fall’s president and vice president will select a third student to fill the final vacancy.

“I think that the number of candidates may have scared people away,” Mogan said, adding that of the 31 people who attended the information session in early March, only 23 completed their platforms and petitions and officially entered the race.

But this does reflect a noticeable increase in participation. Only 18 students attended last year’s information session, with 13 going on to the election. The dropout rate remained fairly steady, rising from 26 to 28 percent.

The elections commission hopes to rise to the challenge of handling so many hopefuls.

Junior Eric Baeri, one of the three commissioners for this year’s race, said the increase in participation will “not be any more of a problem than with two [presidential] tickets, just more crowded.”

Baeri, whose vice presidential bid last year failed after winning a senate seat in commerce and finance in his freshman year, said the most prominent effect of dealing with so many people is keeping track of petitions, posters and other paperwork.

“It’s proportionately the same, but obviously more work because there are more people,” he said.

That extra work could prove troublesome in the final days of the campaign, which are typically reserved for candidates to lob accusations at one another.

“I don’t see a real big difference logistically … [but] there might be some more allegations of campaign laws being broken,” Mogan said.

Last year, for example, the announcement of the winners was delayed 45 minutes while the commission reviewed last-second infractions by both presidential tickets.

So far, though, “I am pleased with the way the process has gone so far,” Mogan said.

In each of the past three campaigns, only two tickets have vied for control of student government. In 2000, there were originally three tickets, but one was disqualified after it was determined that the candidates tampered with the voting process.

In 1998, the last year that elections were done on paper ballots, five presidential tickets sought to rule SGA. The first election ended in a tie between Nicole Douglas and Brian Atkinson and John Poling and Greg Gambel. Douglas and Atkinson won the runoff a week later.