The Undergraduate Government of Boston College’s Student Assembly (SA) will hold a special election next week to fill several seats vacated by members who are abroad or decided to leave the SA in the fall. Empty seats would normally be filled via appointments by Meredith McCaffrey, UGBC executive vice president and MCAS ’17, but with several positions open she said she thinks it is better to hold an election.
The open positions are two senior class seats, one junior class seat, and a MCAS seat. McCaffrey said that this special election has not happened in her time in UGBC. Heights records indicate a special election was held in 2006 for a junior class seat, though sometime in the fall rather than the beginning of spring semester.
McCaffrey said students have already reached out to her about running, including some who were interested in seats back in the fall. She thinks the MCAS seat will have the most interest because it applies to the most students.
As for the senior seats, she hopes they will be contested but is not sure yet. Whoever wins the special elections will hold the seats only for the rest of this school year, but they will be full members of the SA with committee placements.
“It will hopefully be a good way for people, whoever gets it, to get a feel for SA, and then if they like it they can run again for next year, and if they don’t, then it’s only a semester,” she said.
The special election will take place from Jan. 23 to Jan. 26, a change from a normal campaign, which usually last a couple of weeks.
McCaffrey said this is not likely to become a common policy moving forward. The timing this year, where positions are vacant at the beginning of the semester, makes sense for the election. Appointments would make more sense if the vacancies were in the middle of the semester. Overall, she thinks that the reduction in size of the SA this year from 50 to 35 members has made the members participate more actively than in the past.
The Elections Committee (EC), the independent body that runs UGBC elections, will host meetings this week for students interested in running for the SA or in the UGBC presidential election. McCaffrey said she and Russell Simons, UGBC president and MCAS ’17, will be available for meetings with any interested teams, but they do not run the election.
Last year’s presidential election did not end until April 1, after multiple teams that had declared their intent to run early on dropped out. In early March, the Elections Committee decided to reopen the race so that other teams could declare, and hosted a primary to narrow the field to three teams.
The length of last year’s election was cited by Rachel Mills, former co-chair of the EC and BC ’16, as a potential reason for a decrease in voter turnout. Just 2,592 students voted in last year’s presidential election, down from 3,411 in 2015, and 4,332 in 2014. Mills also said that having a primary election probably contributed to making voters disinterested, because they would not want to vote twice.
Casey Doyle, co-chair of the EC and CSOM ’17, said in an email Wednesday that the timeline for the presidential election has been updated this year to be only 12 days, after what she called a drawn-out election last year. This year, the election will kick off on Feb. 5, followed by a period of campaigning and voting on Feb. 15 and 16. A primary will be held on Feb. 13 if five or more teams declare their candidacy.
“Our goals for the year are to have a successful election and a large voter turnout,” Doyle said. “We definitely are a little concerned about filling the seats for the Student Assembly but are hoping UGBC will help drive interest.”
Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor