Size, Scope of Student Voice! Slate Dilutes Races

Illustration by Michael Capparelli/Guardian

Looking at this year’s upcoming A.S. elections, one message
seems to stand out above all the others: Despite their best efforts,
councilmembers are adept at creatively thwarting themselves.

Earlier this year, the council progressively decided to
implement instant runoff voting in future elections, designed to ensure that
the winning candidate has the broadest base of voter support. However, this
year’s much-anticipated candidate announcements provided an interesting setback
for IRV advocates — hopefuls for the top four executive positions, along with
many other key offices, are running unopposed. In fact, IRV will only be
utilized for one race in Revelle College.

Coming on the heels of last year’s contentious four-way
battle for the A.S. presidency, IRV’s effective neutralization prompts the
obvious question: What happened?

The answer, it appears, lies in the perpetually ballooning
power of the Student Voice! slate, which captured 35 positions to opponent
SHOCK!’s 12 in last year’s council race. Though SV! members barely beat out
their competitors in several key offices — including the hard-sought presidency
— they made quick work of dispatching their potential competition down the

When SHOCK! frontman and presidential runner-up Dan Palay
lost the election to SV!’s Marco Murillo, he began a secondary campaign for the
title of associate vice president of athletic relations. A longtime Triton Tide
supporter who helped spearhead last year’s undergraduate athletics fee
referendum, Palay — who even served as chair of the Athletics, Recreation and
Sports Facilities Advisory Board — received a shock of his own when Vice
President of Student Life Donna Bean passed him up for the position, instead
granting it to newcomer Stephanie Chang.

Though she denied that the choice was politically motivated,
the savvy Bean — now the only candidate for A.S. president — dealt a crippling
blow to what was left of SHOCK!. Palay, an Earl
Warren College

senior, had few other opportunities to pursue a cabinet position and was forced
to lay down his campaign torch. Intentional or not, the decision eliminated a
potential source of dissent, and all but ensured her slate’s dominance over
council matters this year.

Even during council meetings, where controversy oftentimes
rears its ugly head, SV! has managed to keep relative order. In comparison to
the last few years, this group has more united meetings and far less contention
than its predecessors encountered. When arguments do occur, they are usually
short-lived and initiated by the same few senators. Simply put, SV! is a force
to be reckoned with, and given its massive support base — it might be easier to
join them rather than to try and beat them.

It is not surprising, therefore, that none of Palay’s fellow
slate members took up the charge to reinvent SHOCK! this year. Even All-Campus
Senator Meghan Clair, one of Palay’s most vocal allies, is pursuing re-election
under the SV! umbrella. It’s clear that anyone who has been paying attention to
recent council politics knows where the chips are likely to fall.

While SV! members will likely have reason to celebrate
another year of control, there exists a small contingent of independent
candidates that they would be remiss to underestimate. Ten of the 35 candidates
are not affiliated with any slate, which Earl Warren College senior and former
presidential candidate Michael Hirshman demonstrated is hardly a reason to
throw in the towel; as a council newcomer, Hirshman managed to capture 1,163
votes in the last election and came in a close third place to veterans Murillo
and Palay, both of whom were backed by the support of their respective slates.

Any independent candidate is going to face an uphill battle,
especially against the Goliath that is SV!. In the spirit of IRV, however, this
board can only hope that the dearth of competition will not make these races
into foregone conclusions.