With over 40 vacant seats for Senate and campus council combined, Student Government (SG) is holding expedited midterm elections for the fall semester to fill remaining seats across all campuses due to COVID-19 and vacant seats from the spring general election.
“We are having an expedited election because of the circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 … [and] because we have some positions in [SG] that need to be filled by a certain date, based on SG statutes and to also allow those personnel to carry out their respective duties,” Supervisor of Elections Shemar McKoy said.
In total, SG received 86 applications, 75 of which were from Tampa, four from St. Pete and seven from Sarasota-Manatee. As of Sept. 7, one application has been denied from the Tampa campus, reducing its total to 74. The application process opened Aug. 24 and closed Sept. 4.
When filling out the application, students could either apply for Senate, campus council representative or both.
For the Tampa campus, 43 students applied for Senate, 13 for campus council representative and 18 for both positions. The St. Pete campus received a significantly lower number of applications, including two for Senate and two for both Senate and campus council representative.
Despite its campus’ size, Sarasota-Manatee received more applications than St. Pete, including three for Senate, three for campus council representative and one for both.
The consolidated SG Senate consists of 60 seats, 44 of which are designated to the Tampa campus while nine are designated to St. Pete and seven to Sarasota-Manatee.
As outlined in SG statutes, if the Senate falls below 70 percent, SG will automatically hold a special election to fill in the missing seats. Prior to the expedited midterm elections, there were a total of 21 vacant Senate seats, 14 of which were from Tampa, four from St. Pete and three from Sarasota-Manatee.
Since the Senate received the majority of applications, SG will have a harder time filling campus council seats. For campus council, a total of 21 seats were vacant – seven from Tampa, nine from St. Pete and five from Sarasota-Manatee. Each campus should have one council with nine active members.
Among the SG eligibility requirements, all senators must attend weekly Senate meetings on Tuesdays, sit on one committee and be enrolled in at least six credit hours as an undergraduate or four credits as a graduate degree-seeking student. In addition, candidates must maintain a 2.5 GPA and may not be under disciplinary probation, suspension or expulsion.
Besides complying with all other eligibility requirements, all candidates must attend at least one virtual candidate meeting to be placed on the ballot. The first meeting will be Tuesday from 6-7 p.m. on Microsoft Teams.
From Sept. 7-8, all candidates will go through an approval process, where SG will confirm their eligibility to run. To campaign, candidates must obtain a verification from the Elections Rules Commission (ERC) or SG Advising Office in order to start campaigning.
Campaigning will officially kick off Sept. 11 at 12:01 a.m. and last until the completion of voting on Sept. 23.
Due to USF’s social distancing protocols, most campaigning should be done online, according to McKoy.
“You will begin to see candidates campaigning … [and] trying to reach out to the student body. Of course, this also has to be online or virtual … because we’re not going to allow candidates to, for example, go on campus, and try to interact with a large number of students to try and get their message across,” McKoy said.
“I think the school has some policies in place that won’t allow the candidates to campaign as they did in the past. We are going to create some very innovative virtual events where they’re able to connect to the student body.”
As a result of COVID-19, voting will be done online from Sept. 22-23. McKoy said SG will provide a link to vote through social media, emails and the MyUSF portal page. Students will need to log in with their NETID and password to vote.
“We’re going to have all the voting done online, and we’re trying to ensure that the student body is aware of the changes that we have made and trying to inform everyone of the necessity to participate in elections, even though it’s online,” McKoy said.
The unofficial results will be announced Sept. 24 via Microsoft Teams at 5 p.m. McKoy said official results will be made available the following week after reviewing any grievances.