By Natalie Crnosija

Undergraduate Student Government President Jeffrey Akita proposed the abolition of the petition requirement for student candidates for the forthcoming Spring 2009 elections during the Feb. 19 USG senate meeting.  The proposal was voted into committee hearing, but dominated the floor for half an hour as senators questioned the reasoning of Akita’s proposition.

Akita argued that the current requirement of 400 student signatures to petition for a position on the USG ballot is too restrictive and daunting to perspective candidates.  The number of signatures provides evidence of popular support for the candidate to the election committee, which, in turn, provides the candidate with campaign funds upon receipt of the petitions.  The process also forces candidates to meet students and explain their platforms.

According to Akita, this method fosters corruption within the USG election committee.

“If someone in the elections board does not like you, they can tell you that you don’t have enough signatures and send you back to get more signatures again and again,” Akita said.

Akita’s proposal was part of the USG Senate’s internally organized move towards election reform, which called for the expansion of the USG Board of Elections.  In previous years, the election committee responsible for overseeing the fair conduct of USG student elections was too small, according to Senator John Kriscenski.  This committee was, at one point, composed of three student members.

“We want this board to be made up of a number of people, so nominations are not just made by the President,” Kriscenski said.

Akita’s assertion of the board’s corruption as a reason for the dissolution of the petition requirement was paired with his claim that the petition signers could have their identities stolen.

“You could get a bank statement through the amount of information people are required to put on the petition for it to be valid,” Akita said.  The petition requires the student’s name, signature, e-mail, phone number and SOLAR ID.

“This information is needed by perspective candidates to prevent voter fraud,” Senator Aneta Bose said. The information is used to verify names and ID and keep students updated with the campaign.

Junior Class Representative Jordan S. Cushner said that the petition process was a necessity of proving one’s commitment to the office.

The USG mandates that the necessity of the petition is to prove that the candidate has enough clout to be worth the investment of USG funds, during the campaign and afterwards as a paid officer of the student government.

“You can’t have a campaign without funds, and no money should be given without the petitions,” Senator Daniel Graber said. “There is very high possibility that a lot of money would be wasted or misspent if anyone could be a candidate without first providing the petitions.”