Student government elections start soon, candidates wanted

At the end of next week, the Washburn Student Government Association will begin its next transformative phase. On Feb. 6, in the old Supreme Court room of the Kansas State Capitol, presidential and vice-presidential candidates seeking election for the next term will announce their intentions to run for office. 

Students seeking a run for office will spend February and the first week of March gathering supporters, announcingtheir platforms and running campaigns much like those running for public office. For some presidential hopefuls, the process began months ago.

“Typically, people have been working since November or December, figuring out who they’re going to run with, who’s going to support them and what issues they’ll run on,” said Eric Benedict, current WSGA president. 

Between first contemplating candidacy and hearing the final results March 8, the candidates have an array of tasks to complete to secure their legitimacy as a front-runner. According to WSGA election rules, students must 

obtain 150 signatures from Washburn students by the Friday before the March 8 election to get on the ballot. 

WSGA executive staff members have spent the past month preparing for the election, working to keep students informed and engaged in the process. 

“A lot of it comes down to making sure people know about it, and making sure people get to the polls on Election Day,” said Micah Offermann, public relations director for WSGA. “I’ve been making posters, choosing themes and making sure we have everything ready for voting to start.”

A three-person election board comprised of WSGA members not running for office will monitor the campaign process. The board ensures each campaign is adhering to election rules, and must sign off on campaign Facebook and Twitter accounts before they go public.

“There are very strict rules in terms of where you can do what, and that’s always monitored by someone in WSGA,” said Benedict. 

Once candidates have made their announcements, various student organizations will be given the opportunity to sponsor debates. Students are encouraged to attend these debates to familiarize themselves with the candidates’ platforms and plans for Washburn.

“Two years ago, we had a race that was pretty widely contended,” said Benedict. “If that happens, and you have the debates, you have a little more of a healthy competition. I think that brings in a lot more people, because people are fighting over those independent voters who aren’t just your friends.”

Debates in the previous years have generally been calm, focusing primarily on the candidates’ platforms rather than inflammatory rhetoric and ad hominem attacks. 

“I’m expecting civil debates to occur, mostly about policy issues and what direction they would lead the executive staff and senate,” said Offermann. “And if a student is willing to go to watch a debate, they’re probably going to spend the two minutes it takes to vote online.”

Although once they take office, prospective candidates will be able to use student activity fee funds to determine programming and services; candidates must rely on their own cash to fund their campaigns. 

The current WSGA administration hopes to boost the visibility of the election process this year, especially if the race turns out to be a contentious one.

“I’m hoping that interest level has gone up, because we’ve tried to be more visible,” said Benedict. “If we’ve done something people agree with then maybe they’d like to continue that, or maybe if we’ve done something they don’t agree with they’d like to change it.”

Voting opens up on students’ MyWashburn pages beginning March 6. Students may vote until 1 p.m. March 8, followed by the announcement of the winners at 5 p.m. the same day in the lower level of the Memorial Union. 

The Benedict/Cortez administration presses students to ask themselves what they want out of WSGA and to consider running for office if they’re looking for a change. 

“Don’t think it’s something where you can’t win, because if you have the right ideas and you support Washburn, you have a pretty good shot,” said Benedict.