Slow start to SG midterm elections application period

Student Government Supervisor of Elections Savannah Carr said she expects midterm elections campaigning and voting to be conducted in person across all campuses. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

With one application in, the race for the upcoming midterm elections is at a slow pace as Student Government (SG) works toward filling 42 vacant seats in Senate and campus councils across all campuses.

Applications opened for Senate and campus council seats for all campuses Aug. 23 and close Sept. 17 at 11:59 p.m., according to SG Supervisor of Elections Savannah Carr. As of Aug. 31, only one application was submitted.

Despite the low number, she said more applications will come as the deadline approaches.

“I do anticipate an increase in students wanting to be involved,” Carr said. “I’ve heard since they want to be involved in on-campus activities, because of COVID, and not being able to prior … I am confident that we will be able to get the candidates.”

There are a total of 26 Senate seats open for this midterm election, of which 16 are from Tampa, and five each from St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee. Due to a drop in enrollment numbers, Tampa lost one seat while St. Pete gained one, Carr said. For the campus councils, Tampa has four open seats, St. Pete has eight and Sarasota-Manatee has four.

In total, Tampa has 44 Senate seats, St. Pete nine and Sarasota-Manatee seven. There are nine campus council representatives per campus.

Senators will be paid $10 per hour and are expected to work 10 hours a week in an office setting, which includes weekly Senate meetings from 6-11 p.m. on Tuesdays. Campus council representatives will also be paid $10 and are set to work five hours a week. In both positions they may have to travel within the state and move around campuses for events.

Students will be able to see who candidates are on SG’s website. Voting will take place at polling stations across campuses Oct. 12-13 so long as the elections remain in person. There will also be a link to vote online on the elections website.

If plans shift due to COVID-19, voting will be conducted solely online.

Students who are interested in running for a position in SG may only apply to be either a senator or a campus council representative. Despite consolidation, Carr said candidates are only able to apply to their local branch campus positions.

Candidates must attend at least one informational session, which will be held Sept. 17 and Sept. 21, to continue in the process. After eligible applicants are approved, campaigning will take place Sept. 25 to Oct. 13.

As in semesters prior to the pandemic, candidates are allowed to campaign across campus. However, if conditions around COVID-19 change and campus operations are shifted online, candidates will have to take advantage of the online world to advertise their campaigns.

“As of right now, we’ve told [candidates] that they can … be in person,” Carr said. “But they need to understand that it is subject to change, if we move virtual, depending on the COVID numbers and what the university says.”

Campaign regulations will be kept the same as in previous years. However, this year there will be more leniency toward students who use the school logo for their personal promotion.

During the general elections in the spring semester, some grievances were filed against current Student Body President Julia Cunningham and Vice President Jillian Wilson for posting photos and videos featuring USF’s logo and trademark around campus in the background. Amid confusion and misinterpretations of statute 706.2.3, which forbids the use of “any logo or trademark that is owned by the university,” it was said that candidates would now be allowed to have a picture with the USF logo in the background, according to Carr.

However, she said exceptions to the statutes will be made, and students will still be in violation if they explicitly showcase a university trademark as a means to promote their candidacy.

“In the … last grievance period, we had a student who had the logo on a flag in the background, because they were on campus. Things like that are going to be allowed,” Carr said. “But if you’re campaigning blatantly with the ambassadors, the SG logo, trademarks, stuff like that, that’s not allowed.”

Not knowing what COVID-19 cases will do to the elections is still a challenge, Carr said. But she believes fair elections can still be done in case their current plans change.

“How do we plan accordingly to make sure that if we do have to go virtually, can we still have fair elections?” Carr said. “As of right now, I’m confident though, that what we will be doing if we have to move virtually will still function well. We’ll just do exactly as we did last October for the virtual elections.”

Even if not running for a position, Carr said students should take part during this election season by casting a vote.

“Make sure to vote. If you’re not interested in applying, at least vote [because] your opinion matters,” Carr said. “Your voice matters, especially in the smaller campuses.”