Election by fiat

John Woods

The Election Supervisory Board has put student governance at UT in a fragile position for the next year. Disqualification of multiple candidates approaches election by fiat, something that is clearly and overwhelmingly counter to the values of democracy.

When we wrote the election code, disqualification was supposed to be a consequence for the gravest of trespasses. The missteps of the Yaman Desai campaign and the Madison Gardner campaign failed to meet that standard.

Unfortunately, the remaining executive tickets have failed to understand the depth of the problem.

Say for a moment that John Lawler wins (a likely proposition given his experience with University-wide elections). In that case, disqualification hurts the Lawler campaign most of all, as Lawler and his running mate Terrence Maas will never be seen with any sort of popular mandate.

I cannot attest to the actual likelihood of the Thor Lund and Wills Brown campaign winning, but truthfully, it doesn’t matter. The appearance is that the ESB has picked next year’s student body president, a perception that will only be dispelled if Lawler loses or if turnout is higher than last year’s.

Speaking of turnout, presidential tickets drive it. More people will vote in competitive elections — for all the positions on the ballot. With two candidates out, and consequently a major segment of the student body feeling disenfranchised, there will be lower turnout overall.

Lower turnout means less scrutiny of down-ballot candidates and, further, less transparency all year long on issues students care about, such as tuition or the impending 2013 legislative session.

There is one probable benefit to the likely low turnout: a significantly lower signature threshold for a referendum to repair the ESB and the election code so that the students — not un-elected appointees — pick their leaders.

John Woods is a former SG graduate school representative.