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Senate clickers intended to increase SG transparency

Voting will go digital at Student Government (SG) Senate meetings starting in the fall semester, when radio frequency response cards, or “clickers,” will be used to vote on legislation.

The Senate is responsible for allocating the Activity & Service (A&S) fees collected from students, which help fund areas on campus such as student organizations and the Marshall Student Center. This fiscal year, SG has $12,865,219 in A&S fees budgeted.

The clickers will make all items the Senate votes on visible on the SG website, including vote tallies and which senators voted for what legislation, said Senate Pro Tempore Rachel Brown.

“I’ve always been really big on transparency,” she said. “I think everyone should be able to see everything we’re doing.”

Currently, voting is conducted in several ways. A roll call vote includes the Senate clerk calling on each senator to vote. In a straw poll vote, a senator’s vote is tallied by raising his or her hand for or against legislation, and the Senate president counts hands for each stance.

Senate President Khalid Hassouneh said both methods have led to errors in the past.

“We’ve had several times in the past where a roll call vote happened and the numbers don’t add up and we have to do another roll call,” he said.

Even when voting is done accurately, Hassouneh said, there is no record kept to show which senators voted for what action during straw poll votes. Clickers will collect this information for every item the Senate votes on, cutting down on voting time and possibly helping solve student apathy, he said.

“They don’t really know what’s going on, and the sad part is there really is a big difference they can make,” he said. “With the clickers, they’ll be able to see beforehand how (a candidate for a Senate position or student body president ticket) has voted and what they voted on and say, ‘OK, they voted to increase funding for this, they voted against this policy, they increased funding for student organizations’ – things like that that might actually be relevant (to a student).”

Brown said the system, which includes 60 clickers, the receiver, software and a carrying case, is being provided by Turning Technologies and costs about $2,000 of last fiscal year’s leftover A&S fees.

“When we were reviewing the budget for last year, we saw there was money left over in materials,” she said. “The clickers were something that both I and Mr. Hassouneh thought were really important, so we paid for them out of last year’s budget.”

Senate attendance could also be affected by the clickers. Brown said she was not sure yet if they would be used to calculate attendance, but they were capable of doing so.

Brown said senators will not be permitted to swap clickers for the purpose of having a friend vote for them or claim attendance on their behalf.

“The sergeant at arms will be given the clicker case at the beginning of each meeting and then each senator will come in and take their clicker,” she said. “Senators are not going to take home their clickers. And each time a senator steps out of (the meeting) to use the restroom or make a call outside or whatever the case may be, they will have to leave their clicker with the sergeant at arms because we don’t want people voting for each other.”