According to the most recent campaign finance reports, over $15,000 was spent during this year’s ASUCR elections, more than a full year’s worth of tuition. Most of the money, over $14,000, was spent by ASUCR’s elections committee, with the individual parties contributing to the remainder.
The committee spent about $0.75 per undergraduate at UCR (there are 18,621 undergraduates on campus) and $2.14 per person who voted in this year’s elections. The $14,000 in expenses are just shy of a $4,000 increase from the 2013 elections season when the committee spent $10,200, itself an increase from the $9,200 spent in 2012.
The largest increase in spending from previous years came in marketing and promotion, which doubled from last year for a total of over $4,000. Of that, just over $2,000 was used for the three-day elections day celebrations, including the rental of a rock climbing tower and dunk tank, among other things. Another $1,000 went to T-shirts, which will also be used in subsequent elections seasons.
ASUCR Elections Director Chris Sanchez said the money was spent to avoid the drop in voter turnout that traditionally occurs toward the end of elections week. According to Sanchez, the number of ballots cast increased from Thursday to Friday of elections week, which Sanchez said indicated that the spending was successful.
A higher than expected turnout rate also resulted in the committee spending more than $4,000 on contracting with Elexpert and its parent company Campus Web Apps, a company that helps colleges run their student government elections, to tabulate the votes. The company charges $0.50 per vote in addition to a $1,000 flat setup fee.
The single largest expenditure after paying for vote tabulation went to Carl’s Jr. at $3,768.40, which provided the first 500 voters with free hamburgers on the Monday of elections week. Other expenses included $1,300 to hold the debates and $500 to rent materials from UCR’s physical plant.
Sanchez expressed his belief that expenses will decrease for next year’s elections cycle, specifically noting that there is no need to purchase additional T-shirts and that the earlier portions of the elections day celebrations may be scaled down.
The amount spent by other UCs varied. UC Berkeley spent about $11,500 on its elections this year for its undergraduate population of 25,774. Meanwhile, UCLA spent over $25,000 on an undergraduate population of about the same size.
According to the Elections Code, which was approved last January, there are no limits on the amount of money candidates can spend on elections. However, the elections committee places restrictions on giveaway items, like flyers or scantrons, mandating that each item promote a candidate or party in some way and individually cost less than $10. In contrast, there were no spending limits on campaign material not intended for giveaway, like banners or [YOUR]SIDE’s inflatable soccer ball.
“There’s no way to track the actual amount of money spent,” Sanchez said, explaining that a strict limit on campaign expenditures would be unenforceable. “What we did is make sure what they spent it on had no outcome on the legitimacy of the elections.”
Vox Populi presidential candidate Armando Saldana said that his party spent about $1,200 during the campaign. [YOUR]SIDE presidential nominee and incoming president Nafi Karim said that he could not identify an “exact number” that his party spent. “I would say that each candidate spent whatever they could contribute,” Karim said.
According to Sanchez, each party spent about the same amount during the election season.
Each party fundraised differently, but many required their candidates to submit fees to the party. ABC: A Better Choice presidential nominee Sean Fahmian said that “each one of our 23 candidates donated $50 to the campaign.” Incoming vice president of external affairs Abraham Galvan of [YOUR]SIDE said that their candidates were also required to contribute, with the amount requested by the party dependent on the position each candidate was seeking.
As a result of the influx of cash, most students agreed that elections were much more visible this year. “To someone who doesn’t really understand the aspects of student government, it was a bit overwhelming,” said third-year media and cultural studies and women’s studies double-major Maddhi Jayagoda. “Especially because all the posters pretty much looked the same to me.”
Other students expressed frustration that the level of campaigning did not match the quality of the campaign. “I just honestly wish people emphasized what their stance was a little better,” Candace Viero, fourth-year biology major, said. “I sort of felt like it drifted into a popularity vote in the end, which really shouldn’t happen.”
“All the posters everywhere mean nothing if I don’t know what it is they’re advocating,” Jayagoda added.
Contributions by Sandy Van and Jake Rich, Senior Staff Writers