Associated Students fall short in providing open and fair elections

Upon reading the mission statement released by the Associated Students, one would assume that as students, our voices would be heard and that the AS would openly disclose information largely considered public knowledge. In fact, the preamble to the AS Constitution states that the AS exists "to promote the intellectual, social, educational, and cultural welfare of the students" of SMC. Based on such words, one would assume student involvement with the AS would be encouraged. However, when it came to this election, that wasn't the case.

The AS chose to move the candidate application deadline in order to procure students for all positions. This gave the impression that the AS was ready to play ball and make this race truly democratic.

The day after the candidate application deadline, a list of candidates running for the 2010-2011 term was given to the Corsair. However, this was only after several uninformed people in the AS office had told a Corsair reporter that the list would be unavailable to the public until voting day. The AS did not provide the Corsair with candidate contact information due to their rather strict interpretation of privacy laws.

The Corsair delegated reporters and photographers to cover the election, however due to several failed attempts by our staff to obtain useable information from the AS, the paper was not able to cover the election as comprehensively as we had hoped.

The AS elections began on Monday, April 5. Candidates were not given a proper forum to speak and share their statements with the voters until yesterday, when the AS presidential candidates held a debate in the main quad. However, little notice of the debate was given to students.

The timeline allotted by the AS was not enough to run a legitimate campaign. And while online voting polls were opened to students on Monday, April 5, students still have no way of accessing information as to who is running or what their platforms represent because the current administration remains tight-lipped.

In fact, a meet-and-greet with the AS candidates won't happen until this Thursday when candidates will set up tables along the quad to answer students' questions and discuss the issues. Thursday, coincidentally, is also the day when the polls close, giving students roughly twelve hours between noon and midnight to make a semi-informed decision. How many uninformed students will actually vote for these specter candidates over the next two days is a mystery, but, hypothetically, the statistic "80 percent of the student vote" doesn't have the same impact when it is based on a pool of ten voters, does it?

It is not solely the current administration's responsibility to make the next term's election competitive and fair. Candidates must also be held accountable for not calling more attention to themselves, though you would think that this is something that would benefit their position.

A few candidates have used Facebook to spread the word, but are failing to reach the majority of students. Campaign signs can be found around campus, but they are haphazardly and sparsely placed and do little to inform. And even if the signs were plentiful, simply bombarding students with pretty faces rather than a focus on the issues further perpetuates the pretense of this election.

In theory, the election of our student representatives is an exercise in representative democracy. However, in its present state, it is a subversion of the democratic process, where candidates are rushed through their campaigns under a media blackout.

A free-flow of information is essential to any functioning democracy. Significant to this process is the unfettered access of the news media to candidates and election information.

We ask of the AS to create a more timely election that encourages student participation. Rather than count on raffles or ice cream vouchers to draw in voters, count on student interest. Really. Just give us a chance.