The fact that there is only one candidate running for the president and vice president of finance positions for next year’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) is a problem within itself; even with the most qualified candidates, students should always have multiple options to choose from for their representation. The fact that the USG bylaws are entirely unclear on what student options are in this situation, though, is even worse.
The USG election bylaws are extremely vague when it comes to one candidate elections. There is no clause in the bylaws, the constitution or the grant of power that requires there to be an abstain or no confidence option on the ballot. Including these options is at the discretion of the elections commissioner.
However, Robert’s Rules, which USG operates under, require a write-in option, so voters could put a space or write “abstain” in this box to have their vote not be counted. Still, this requires knowledge of procedure that the average student may not have.
According to the bylaws, a candidate needs to receive more than 50 percent of the votes to be elected. Voters rank the candidates on their ballot, so if a candidate does not receive this straight off, the candidate with the lowest amount of votes (including write-ins) is eliminated and their votes are redistributed using an instant runoff system.
Under Robert’s Rules, an abstention does not count as a vote. Therefore, theoretically, if 95 percent of people abstained in an election, a candidate could be elected with 2.51 percent of the vote. This is obviously a hypothetical and extreme situation, but it is something that could feasibly happen with the way the bylaws are currently written.
The only situation with a single-candidate election in which that candidate is not elected involves either the inclusion of a no confidence vote at the discretion of the election commissioner or a large number of students writing in the same candidate in the write-in box. However, write-in candidates or abstentions require mass organization on the part of students, which they should not be expected to do.
I believe that the inclusion of a no-confidence option as required for all races in the bylaws would give students an easier way to express their opinion if they are not comfortable with the candidate.
However here lies another fault in the bylaws: It is entirely unclear what would happen in the situation where a single candidate is not elected. While it is said that a runoff election would occur, there are no stipulations for who would be running in that election and how that would be determined.
In no way am I insinuating that I believe that either Brian Ward or Tommy Pierre are not viable candidates for the positions they are running for. However I do believe that going into a single-candidate election, students should be aware of what their options are if they do not like the candidate in the running. Therefore, I urge USG to clear up their election bylaws so that students are fully aware of their options.
Julia Bianco is a fourth-year student and the Director of Web and Multimedia for The Observer.