Opinion: Balancing the scales: Creating fair election systems for all students

Posted on Nov 30 2018 - 5:50am by Levi Bevis

Greek students at our university have inherent advantages in our campus elections. As I detailed in a previous article, these advantages include access to funding, access to people with campaign experience and more. Presenting these problems would be useless without exploring ways to create opportunities for non-Greek students to have a fair chance to participate in elections.

There is no one catch-all solution ASB could enact to resolve these issues. However, there are many options worth exploring that could create a more equitable campus election system.

One of the most important issues to address is access to funding. Resources are required to purchase and assemble a campaign sign, boost social media posts, produce videos and more. A potential solution to the high cost of campaigns is three-fold: reduce spending limits, restrict the campaigning period and revamp campaign finance by-laws.

If spending limits were reduced, candidates would have no option but to spend less money on elections. Such a system would help level the playing field between Greek and non-Greek candidates by making elections more accessible and competitive.

Likewise, restricting the campaigning period to one week would further improve access to elections. Let’s face it: two-week elections are burdensome for everyone, especially candidates. If candidates must campaign for two weeks, they are all but guaranteed to spend more than if they only had one week to campaign.

Additionally, reforming our campaign finance system would be a major step towards creating equitable opportunities for all students. Currently, candidates do not have to disclose who funds their campaigns. Likewise, candidates are allowed to fundraise, but Title V, Section 116, Paragraph H of the ASB Code is vague concerning how and when fundraising activities can be undertaken. Instituting a clearer standard for campaign finance would provide students, especially non-Greek students, with more opportunities to run for office.

Another issue to address is the system of incentivizing and coercing votes from members of Greek organizations. Legislation has been enacted by the ASB Senate to address this situation, which is a step in the right direction. However, legislation and regulations can only go so far.

One way to achieve change outside of direct regulation includes the establishment of a joint committee of ASB and Greek representatives that discusses the culture of Greek-dominated elections. Such a forum would allow Greek and ASB leadership to encourage fair participation in elections, hold each other accountable and collectively resolve issues that develop.

The most important issue to address, however, is the lack of information and education about ASB’s election by-laws and procedures. Non-Greek students are less likely to know someone with knowledge about election procedures or with experience running a campaign than Greek students are. ASB could significantly reduce this information disparity by holding information sessions or interest meetings for interested students prior to campaigning periods.

Both ASB and the Greek community can take action to make elections more fair for everyone. This process will not be easy or quick, but it is a task worth undertaking. Recognizing the inherent advantages of Greek students in our system is important, but we can and must take concrete steps to develop a system that works better for everyone. Levi Bevis is a senior public policy leadership major from Florence, Alabama.