SG elections led by ‘trial and error’
With election season around the corner, Student Government (SG) is filled with uncertainties on how to piece together the scattered puzzle known as the consolidated university system.
The unknown future of SG can also be reflected in the number of applications received so far for the upcoming elections, which might be “scaring people off,” according to SG Advising and Training Operations Assistant Director Jennifer Bielen.
As of Feb. 4, only one application has been received for student body president from the St. Pete campus and one governor and lieutenant governor from both Tampa and Sarasota-Manatee.
For Senate, 16 applications from Tampa, two from Sarasota-Manatee and none from St. Pete have been received so far.
Regardless of major, students from all three campuses will vote to elect 60 senators this upcoming election.
In addition, no applications have been received for campus council representatives yet. Each campus will have one council, with nine active members each.
Despite the low turnout so far in the number of applications received, Bielen said she is expecting last minute submissions by the Feb. 7 deadline.
“Just from previous experience of working with the elections, the majority of the applications get turned in on the last day,” Bielen said. “It seems that people don’t want other people to know that they are running until the very end.”
Students interested in running for either systemwide president and vice president or governor and lieutenant governor will have to submit one single application packet count, as both positions count as one ticket each.
In case not all positions are filled by Feb. 7, the missing seats will be running uncontested. Depending on the number of remaining seats, a special election will be held to fill those positions, according to Bielen.
If the Senate falls below 70 percent, Bielen said that SG will automatically hold a special election to fill in the missing seats.
Amid changes for this year’s general body elections, students will be faced with a much longer ballot and will have to spend extra time thinking about the candidates they want to vote for due to the larger amount of candidates running.
During past elections, candidates were divided by their respective colleges. With Senate elections being held at large this year for the first time, students will have the chance to vote for all senators at their campus regardless of the college the senator represents.
For instance, students from the Tampa campus will have the choice to vote for 44 candidates, while St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee will vote for nine and seven candidates, respectively.
This year’s debates will also see major changes compared to years prior. For instance, there will be two different debates, one systemwide for president and vice president and another for governor and lieutenant governor for each campus.
The systemwide debate will be held Feb. 24 at the Marshall Student Center (MSC) Oval Theater at 7 p.m. and will be mandatory for all candidates running for president and vice president.
Whether SG will provide transportation to the candidates for the debate in Tampa has not been established yet, according to Bielen.
In order to allow students from all three campuses to watch the systemwide debate, SG is working toward live-streaming it to the other campuses.
Bielen said that SG would have to hire an outside company to provide the service, which might cost at least $1,000 per livestream.
The governor, lieutenant and campus council debates will take place on Feb. 19 in the MSC Ballroom at 7 p.m. and at Sarasota-Manatee’s student center, Student Commons.
The student body will vote March 2-5 at their respective polling locations across campuses, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and online.
The final results will be announced March 6 at noon on the Tampa campus in MSC 4200, the Senate Chamber.
“I think one of the hardest things is that there is still a lot with the whole consolidation process that’s unknown,” Bielen said.
“We haven’t connected all of the dots and all the pieces that we might be missing and I think this year is really going to be a trial-and-error thing to see all the things that worked and the things that didn’t and how can we fix it to make it better.”