AS election draws near
On the horizon of a highly competitive Associated Students election, over 40 political hopefuls crammed into a conference room in Santa Monica College's Cayton Center last Wednesday to discuss new rules and regulations concerning the election.
Potential candidates listened as Benny Blaydes, Inter-Club Council adviser, outlined campaign rules and discussed changes in director responsibilities.
“We didn’t expect a crowd this size,” said Blaydes, who also discussed changes to the election code during the meeting, as well as rules and regulations concerning the election.
The alleged “typo” found in the election code was fixed by Spincer Versele, the ICC chair, after it was ruled that the AS constitution superceded the election code.
This change effectively required that candidates have 20 completed units, or that they must currently be serving as an AS director, commissioner or an active member of the ICC during the semester they are elected.
After almost being excluded from the 2013 elections due to the “typo,” presidential candidate Noke Taumalolo is particularly happy to see this change.
“I’m glad I fought for what was right; they were basically taking away our rights to vote,” he said.
Changes will also be made to the duties of each position on the AS board of directors. For instance, director of student services will now be called director of advocacy. Advocacy will work closely with financial services and financial aid, as well as actively creating scholarships for students.
Director of advocacy deals primarily with legislative advocacy as well as polling student opinion. The position also acts as SMC’s official delegate to the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, an independent student-run advocacy group.
This year’s campaign expenses are limited to $250 per candidate, and candidates receiving financial aid will be reimbursed up to $100.
Candidates are also banned from giving out any items of worth during their campaigns in an effort to sway undecided voters.
This does not include buttons or pins, which some campaign slates have already started handing out. The AS has ruled these items as promotional campaign materials and not of any value.
Firmer restrictions have also been placed on campaign endorsements. Current AS directors are strictly forbidden to endorse candidates. Even "liking" a slate's page on Facebook could result in campaign penalties.
Clubs are no longer allowed to officially endorse candidates, and candidates wishing to speak to classes must obtain explicit consent from a professor.
Tampering with another slate's campaign materials or signs is an instant disqualification. If a campaign worker is caught tampering, the candidate is liable.
“Respect other people, and other people’s property,” said Blaydes. “Just because you’re running against someone doesn’t mean they’re your enemy.”
Chase Greene, who is running for director of publicity, said he hopes for a clean race.
“I’ve seen a lot of student body campaigns that were ugly,” he said.
There are four major slates looking to make a meaningful impact on the election this year, including United Students led by Taynara Moura, S.M.C. led by Chioma Ojini, Corsairs Connected led by Alex Abramoff, and The Voice We Need, The Change We Deserve led by Taumalolo.
“United Students is a name that reflects how I want the student body to look after I’m elected,” said Moura. “I’ve been researching for a long time into what students need.”
“We have a Hispanic, a Caucasian, a Middle Easterner, an Asian, and an African American,” said Taumalolo of the members of his slate.
Taumalolo said he feels that students are isolated from each other and would benefit from more diversity.
“You’ve got to get different perspectives from different cultures to solve problems,” he said.
S.M.C. is the “Green” slate with an emphasis on sustainability, and many members work closely with the Center for Environmental and Urban Studies. The acronym stands for Synergy, Motivation and Co-Creation.
S.M.C. led by Ojini, current AS director of student services, feels that her experience in student government will help her reach out to students.
“Knowing realistic goals is something that I’ve picked up as a director,” said Ojini. “I want students to co-create solutions getting involved and engaged.”
Also on the ballot this year, are five separate iniatives including a proposed $1 student representation fee. If passed, the fee would go towards funding student advocacy on campus.
AS debates are scheduled for March 27, with the elections on April 1 through April 3. In the result of a tie, runoff elections will be held on April 23 and April 24.