Though there is only one formal ticket campaigning for the Georgetown University Student Association executive position while other formal tickets enter and drop out and potential write-in candidates form joke tickets, it is down to the Georgetown University Student Association Election Commission to make sure this year’s race — and all GUSA elections — adhere to a fair set of rules.
Three election commissioners, Alden Fletcher (SFS ’17), Grady Willard (SFS ’18) and Minji Doh (SFS ’19), have teamed up to govern campaign season and count votes on Election Day, which will be Feb. 18 this year.
All three commissioners work together on every aspect of the job, but do specialize with certain skills.
Fletcher, from outside of Burlington, Vt., is involved with the Philodemic Society, Running Club and the Housing Department on campus in addition to his position enforcing campaign rules on the Election Commission. He said he was drawn to the commission when a friend suggested it to him.
“[He] said it required somebody who is impartial, and, when they saw that description, they thought of me,” Fletcher said. “I try to always take both sides to a story, consider all opinions, especially when friends are in a disagreement. I don’t pick sides immediately.”
Willard, from Pasadena, Calif., manages most of the voting software. He is a member of GU Fossil Free and is on the executive board of the Journal of International Affairs at Georgetown. He said he was interested in the Election Commission because of prior experience in high school.
Doh, from Yorktown, Va., is new to the commission and has been doing organizational planning and communication since she joined this year. She is also involved with International Relations Club and the Georgetown Admissions Ambassador Program. She applied after seeing the position was available in a GUSA newsletter.
Doh said that the GUSA executive election has brought on a heavy workload.
“It’s like the calm before the storm,” Doh said. “When I first got in, we didn’t really do a lot because that was in the middle — the senate election had just finished and before presidential elections, it was calm and now it’s hectic, especially because, I think, it’s Georgetown and everybody’s interested in politics.”
The Election Commission is responsible for holding two information sessions about campaigning before candidates can formally declare. Attendance at one of these meetings is mandatory for a ticket to be considered eligible for debates and ballot listing.
The commission also moderates the debates. With only one formal ticket this year, they have conjoined the planned vice presidential and presidential debates into one town hall meeting scheduled for Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the Healey Family Student Center’s Great Room.
On election night, the commission announces voter participation as well as results in rounds via Twitter. Its instant runoff voting technique, which involves eliminating candidates and reallocating votes according to preference, has been praised as one of the most democratic systems for elections by Fr. Matthew Carnes, S.J., in his Comparative Political Systems class, a requisite class for the School of Foreign Service core curriculum and a requirement for College government majors.
“Historically, students, often after taking [Comparative Political Systems] have continually tried to tweak the voting system such that we’ve reached the current system we have today. … Fr. Carnes always highlights the GUSA election two years before Grady and I came on when there was one leading candidate but with a lot of opposition, so, as other candidates were eliminated, one ticket actually passed them in the last round,” Fletcher said.
Having monitored last year’s executive election, Fletcher and Willard noted that some topics are consistent issues during campaign season.
“Campaigns will focus on a lot of the same things,” Willard said. “I imagine that a lot of the questions that we asked last year we will probably ask again this year: dining, GUTS Bus, Kehoe, mental health, sexual assault.”
In contrast to the Khan-Fisk ticket, the Pezzullo-Serlemitsos campaign, which has since dropped out, and other write-in campaigns have taken a more satirical approach to the election, made famous by last year’s GUSA executive election winners Joe Luther (COL ’16) and Connor Rohan (COL ’16). Fletcher, however, said this trend does not concern him.
“Regardless of whether they’re satirical or whether they’re completely serious, it’s still the campaigns that manifest effort, that actually demonstrate some caring about the student body. Even if you are satirical, it shows that you do care in some way. Satire is a way of criticism and criticism is a way of improvement,” Fletcher said. “I do wonder, though, if the lesser amount of tickets we have this semester isn’t a feature of some of the ways that the dialogue of the race last year might have gotten a little nasty and a little targeted.”
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