The ASUCR Senate meeting on Feb. 9 witnessed the passage of a resolution that bans the use of laptops during ASUCR senator elections and the selection of a new elections chair. The use of laptop campaigning had been widely used during past elections in which laptop-bearing candidates would approach students and ask for a vote—a practice that had been allowed by the ASUCR constitution. Chapter six, item five of the constitution had previously read, “Campaigning with laptops is allowed as long as students are not being forced or intimidated to vote one way or another.”
At the base of the laptop ban resided concerns that laptop campaigning could potentially undermine the free will of voters and unfairly pressure voters into electoral decisions. Every senator except one (who abstained to vote) voted in favor of the ban. “I totally understand where the students are coming from…[we now] have a more democratic way,” stated Internal Affairs Vice President Nicholas Park.
Park, however, ceded that the new ban would take a toll on the number of students who participated in ASUCR senatorial elections. “One good thing about [laptop campaigning] is that I would speak with students who didn’t know about elections, who didn’t know who to vote for…I would talk to them and say ‘This is what I’m doing, this is what I’m running for,’ and a lot of students appreciated that I actually went up to them other than just putting up posters,” stated Park. “The turnout for the people that are going to vote is going to be decreased significantly because the last two years we broke numbers,” concluded Park, who emphasized the importance of the newly elected Elections Chair in maintaining high rates of voter turnout. The approved resolution states, “Campaigning with laptops is strictly prohibited on all university property, and doing so will result in a violation. To avoid unclear and/or false violations, complaints about laptop campaigning must be registered only by students who are approached and asked to vote.”
The selection of a new Elections Chair began with an open interview process in which six candidates answered questions regarding how they would increase voter turnout and awareness—a task that senators acknowledged would become more difficult due to the new ban on laptop use. Jonathan Mansoori, who would later be selected for the position, spent his presentation elaborating on how his experience as director of philanthropy at the Student Alumni Association and as the executive chairperson for UC Riverside’s Dance Marathon had prepared him for the role of elections chair.
A significant portion of the meeting was also spent on improving transparency and student awareness. During the previous ASUCR meeting, members of the public forum called upon senators to increase their efforts to reach out to their constituents. One proposed initiative to address this concern was discussed by Senate Chair Rachel Chieng; the activity, called “swarming,” involves pairs of senators approaching individuals and organizations in order to speak about ASUCR. Meanwhile, CHASS Senator Omar Shahin noted that he had been working on posters and fliers that would contain ASUCR meeting information. “The only way to help the students is to know exactly what they want and I think the best way to do this is to hear from them directly,” stated Shahin. Another issue brought up during the previous meeting centered on the lack of campus awareness regarding ASUCR meetings. ASUCR took heed of this by sending out an email announcing the upcoming meeting time and location. “Want to know what’s going on in ASUCR? Come out to our bi-monthly Senate meetings! All meetings take place in the Senate Chambers (HUB 221),” stated the email.