The 2020 Student Association (SA) E-Board elections attracted fewer candidates than usual, with none of the six positions being contested.
SA elections are set to take place on March 17, when students can vote for e-board members through B-Engaged. But this year, they won’t have many options. Every position is uncontested, except for the Binghamton University Council representative, which is not an SA position, although elections for SA positions and the Council representative take place at the same time.
The lack of candidates marks a change from last year, which saw two positions contested, with three people running for SA president and four running for vice president of programming. Ross Mesnick, chair of the SA Elections and Judiciary Committee and a sophomore majoring in business administration, said he there are several contributing factors to a lack of interest in running for SA positions.
“In terms of having uncontested elections, there are probably a few reasons for this,” Mesnick wrote in an email. “One that stands out to me is the heavy time commitment that comes with each position. [E-Board] members consistently put in over 20 hours every week and this can be a lot for many undergraduates.”
The lack of candidates contrasts the efforts the SA made to increase its candidate outreach. This year, Mesnick said the SA added advertisements in Pipe Dream and on Off Campus College Transport (OCCT) buses, handed out fliers to resident assistants throughout campus and hung a banner in the staircase of the University Union leading down to the Marketplace. The letter of intent period was also doubled to two weeks instead of one.
“There was a huge change in outreach for candidates,” Mesnick wrote. “Typically, the Elections [and Judiciary] Committee has made the election public through [SA Line Newsletters], some postings on campus and social media posts on the SA social media accounts. This year, we felt it was necessary to increase our outreach efforts to ensure that as many people on campus were made aware of the election.”
Despite these efforts, the deadline to submit letters of intent for vice president for multicultural affairs (VPMA) and BU Council representative had to be extended because of the lack of valid applications. According to Mesnick, the letters of intent originally submitted to those positions did not meet the signature threshold to secure a spot on the ballot; however, interested students were given the option to get more signatures and then resubmit. The deadline extension allowed one VPMA candidate, who had not previously submitted, to get on the ballot, as well as two BU Council representative candidates who were initially denied and resubmitted. Even with the extra time, the SA Elections and Judiciary Committee did not have the ballot finalized until after the extended deadline.
“One of the BU Council candidates was added to the ballot after the deadline as a result of the Elections [and Judiciary] Committee having to finalize the certification process,” Mesnick wrote. “The Elections [and Judiciary] Committee determined that the signatures submitted, along with the other materials, were valid and the candidate was placed on the ballot.”
The decline of interest in SA positions mirrors a decline in the student body’s interest in voting. The number of students who voted in SA elections has declined every year since spring 2017, when elections for the 2017-18 academic year were held. During that year, 3,063 students voted, but only 2,062 students voted last year — about 12.5 percent of the undergraduate student body.
With every SA position on the ballot uncontested this year, that voter turnout trend is expected to continue on March 17. For students like Brandon Breece, a junior majoring in economics, the lack of candidates makes this year’s election seem pointless.
“I probably wouldn’t vote since it wouldn’t make a difference anyway,” Breece said.
However, Saya Patel, a sophomore majoring in human development, said she still sees the value in voting.
“I think [the] SA has a really big part of literally everything that goes on on campus,” Patel said. “And I think it’s important to pick someone who knows what they’re doing, who is passionate about it.”
Students will have the opportunity to hear the candidates’ platforms and ask questions this week at SA Sweeps, which will take place from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Feb. 26 in the Mandela Room and Old Union Hall.