Council Hostilities Demonstrate Need for Election Reform

After three days of delay, 25 grievances and the attempted impeachment of President Wafa Ben Hassine, the results from this unprofessional shitshow of an election are finally in. With enthusiasm, coordination, balloons and even puppies (eat your heart out, Flush the John), Alyssa Wing’s Board the Wing slate has made the cleanest election sweep in recent memory, taking every executive position and all but one campuswide senatorial position.

The results, at least, bode well for the future of council. Wing, always a frontrunner, has shown herself to be an effective campaigner, and with the rest of her colleagues with office, she won’t be plagued by the divided council that has paralyzed Ben Hassine’s efforts. Ben Hassine, who ran on Students First! last year, had very few slate running mates on council and battled opposing opinion at every turn, starting from the scrutiny of her associate vice president appointments before she was even four weeks into her term. With the leadership ability that Wing has already demonstrated, and the support of the most powerful members of our local bureaucracy, it’s likely that this unified council will go a long way toward Wing’s goals of strengthening athletics, making the move to Division-I sports and increasing student involvement.

But for anyone who sits on council in the future, this year’s elections won’t be remembered for big promises or the the 1:30 results announcement at Round Table, but by the hours anxious candidates spent holed up on the fourth floor picking fights and trying to find loopholes to reveal the election results earlier. And it’s this process — and the divisions that grew out of it— that show a need for Wing, and members of every slate, to reevaluate their promises of unity, professionalism and accountability.

Most of the now-famous 25 grievances were filed by the Students First slate, the people who conspicuously had the widest ideological gap from the Board the Wing, Tritons First and We Are Tritons slates. The number of grievances and the appeals that went through, led people to feel that the SF slate was trying to disqualify them in order to increase their own chances of winning, as happened in 2003 when the entire Students First slate was disqualified.

It is frustrating, and rightly so, for anxious candidates to wait so long — and seemingly needlessly, since none of the results or appeals resulted in disqualification — for the results to be announced. And when grievances are over things such as not having written “Vote on TritonLink” on the poster, it is understandable that it seems ludicrous to keep on fighting. This shows that the election bylaws are worth reevaluating; while some grievances, such as the one against the now-failed University Centers fee, had consequential results, it is unlikely that omitting the place of voting on a poster had a big impact on who a prospective voter cast her ballot for. More stringent guidelines on how long the elections committee or judicial board is expected to stay, and more training for all involved, would have avoided many who waited for hours only to hear that they would need to return home. There’s no doubt that there’s a lack of organization in how the elections run, and that some of the guidelines need to be changed.

But while the rules are there, and while the candidates agreed to adhere to the rules, every slate has the right to file grievances and go through the appeal across as they see fit, even if other people think it unnecessary. For people to stress accountability and transparency within council — and then try to impeach Ben Hassine in order to see the results faster — is a blatant display of hypocrisy and, had Board the Wing not so unequivocally taken the spots, would have set next year’s council up for disaster. Even worse is the harassment among opposing members, whether it was disparaging comments online, members trying to approach others to “negotiate” or angry messages written on the doors of other candidates.

Come seventh week, when all the new members of council take the floor, it will be easy for this group of running mates to forget the stress of the past week. But if these members want to be truly effective and represent the student body as they promise, they need to look internally first, keep in mind those two days spent on the forum and ask themselves how they can prevent that in the future.