Another election cycle has come and gone, offering a fresh chance to poke and prod at the issues facing the student body. The EMPOWER candidates consistently focused on basic needs and transparency from the Associated Students, yet they conveniently forgot to mention a topic that the independent candidates made central to their platforms: slates. Slates take the place of political parties on University of California campuses where collections of students lock arms to prepare for brutal campaigning seasons. Slates, however, do not serve to align the interests of the voting body at UC San Diego with the candidates that best represent them, as a political party would. Slates instead provide more tangible benefits to the candidates themselves than they do for the constituency. Not only would forgoing the slate system in the future help level elections between independent and slated candidates, it would allow for a more direct representation of the student body’s interests.
To be fair, electing a slate with a history of campaigning and a body of experienced candidates does come with some perks. A.S. Senate is notoriously unclear about its operating procedures, so slated candidates rely on each other to share their experiences. In this way, they can diversify their institutional knowledge to better prepare for the task.
The benefit of slates for candidates themselves, though, greatly outweighs the benefits for the student body. For the purpose of campaigning, prospective candidates benefit significantly more from the collective effort of running with a slate than running as an independent. First of all, candidates can pool their campaign funds. Candidates cannot accept donations, so having the financial support of nearly a dozen people goes a long way in affording posters, T-shirts, and the occasional food item that happens to be located next to an informational booth. Also, slated candidates can more easily create a recognizable brand. The network of interpersonal relationships at the slate’s disposal increases as its numbers rise; every student organization or social circle connected to a slated individual contributes to that slate’s overall advertising potential. Aside from that, an individual running as an independent can only flyer and campaign so much, whereas a slate can rotate shifts to have a consistent presence leading up to elections. Rather than personally engaging with constituents, a slate can diffuse their message into the campus psyche by barraging students with subliminal poster placements and by parroting their message at passer-bys from the start of Spring Quarter. In a system where slates are the norm, the election cycle becomes more about who has the strongest marketing strategy— a contest not easily won by independents.
In a competition between slates, the playing fields are basically even in terms of marketing, but brand recognition invariably eclipses the platforms that constituents expect their elected officials to address. A.S. elections abound with rules and regulations, trials and tribulations — all meant to secure a delusion that candidates win based on their platforms alone. However, elections will always be skewed toward whoever happens to fit into a slate if they continue to disregard the advantages that come with the slate system.