On Tuesday, March 18, ASUCR Elections Director Dyanna Castaneda announced in a campuswide email that the ASUCR Elections Committee has cancelled all on-campus events, in adherence to UCR’s enactment of COVID-19 safety measures and efforts to minimize in-person contact.
In the email, Castaneda wrote that campus leadership determined that elections activities and events such as the Candidates Convention and Voting Week polling sites would, “generate far too many crowds and result in compromising our health safety.”
Castaneda stated that the Elections Committee is working with campus leadership and UCR Information Technology Solutions to create an online voting platform that will cater to both the safety of students’ personal information and the preservation of the integrity of ASUCR’s electoral system. “We ask for your patience and understanding as the Elections Committee continues to resolve this unforeseen circumstance. Keep an eye out for more information regarding elections and possible giveaways,” stated Castaneda.
Castaneda ended the email stating, “Highlanders– please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay vigilant in maintaining our relationships with one another as the social beings we are.”
In an email interview with The Highlander, Castaneda stated that the Elections Committee is currently in the process of trying to find an online alternative to the Candidates Convention which would have been a town hall style event in which students could get to know and ask the candidates questions. Castaneda stated that she has been in correspondence with The Highlander’s editor-in-chief Jonathan Fernandez, as they previously discussed The Highlander’s plans to host a candidates’ debate which would be hosted as a separate entity from ASUCR. “I believe a livestream or recorded debate hosted by your organization (The Highlander) may be optimal at this time. The Committee is still looking for other platforms for us to utilize as well, though,” stated Castaneda.
Castaneda stated that she believes that online voting might actually have a positive effect on voter participation. “Last year, the previous Elections Committee had to extend the voting period via online platform to generate enough referendum votes. What with the social distancing and all, I think people would have more time to fill out a relatively quick and easy ballot from the convenience/comfort of their own homes,” stated Castaneda.
She stated that the difficulty right now lies within virtual campaigning and marketing, but she prefers to see the COVID-19 safety measures as a challenge to their creativity and flexibility instead of a hindrance. Castaneda wrote that “We plan on refocusing our efforts heavily towards our website (elections.ucr.edu) and Instagram (@asucr_elections).” There are still many possibilities to be explored, she stated. Traditionally, ASUCR offers incentives on-campus in order to increase student voter turnout. “The provision of incentives is one of the most important and exciting aspects of elections for me personally, and although I cannot definitively guarantee them at this time, we are working our best to carry those out. Ever the optimist, I do have high hopes for the prospect of it, though,” stated Castaneda.
Castaneda concluded the interview stating, “I cannot emphasize the importance of transparency of our efforts enough, but these are trying times and everything is rather shaky at the moment.”