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Senate discusses ASSU election reform


In its 19th meeting, the 20th Undergraduate Senate discussed overhauling the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) election process to add a filing step to the petitions process. The Senate also voted on resolutions to lower the spending limit on ASSU campaigns and in support of a registration hold for students who are eligible but have not registered to vote in U.S. elections.  

During the traditional petitioning process, prospective candidates declare their intent to run and gather signatures over the course of a week in order to appear on the ballot. For the upcoming ASSU election, the process will occur in two parts — a filing process and then a Qualtrics-based petition. 

Qualtrics is a web tool often used for creating surveys.

The filing process will be a five-day period in February during which students may declare their candidacy. The Qualtrics-based petition, through which candidates may gather signatures, will occur after the filing period. 

The petitioning process was changed in order to crack down on joke campaigns and signature fraud, in which people ineligible to vote signed candidates’ petitions. Use of Qualtrics will also allow the election commission to block graduate students and non-Stanford affiliates from petitioning for undergraduate positions, which was possible under the old system.

Senators raised concerns over the Qualtrics system because it blocks voters from voting for any additional candidates after the form is submitted. ASSU Elections Commissioner Jacob Randolph ’19 suggested that the petition stay open until the end of the petitioning period, though he noted that candidates would then be unaware of their signature count until the very end of the period.

Randolph said he hopes to have the Qualtrics survey out by Feb. 12, and he is researching how to address these concerns and “figure out the best way to [conduct the petition process].”

The Senate will host info sessions Feb. 1 at 4 p.m. and Feb. 5 at 5 p.m. to discuss these changes. The initial filing period for intent to run opens Feb. 15, and voting is open on April 10 and 11.

In an effort to remove barriers to entry into the ASSU government, the Senate unanimously passed a bill to lower campaign spending limits, which will go into effect this election cycle. The current spending limit for executive slates and class presidents is capped at $1,000 and $500, respectively. With the passage of Tuesday’s bill, these limits have been lowered to $500 and $100, respectively. Executive slates who seek public funding must obtain 300 signatures, with at least 100 coming from undergraduate students and 50 from graduate students. Funding limits for Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council candidates will remain at $100. 

Additionally, Senator Gabe Rosen ’19 co-authored a resolution with Stanford in Government board members Michael Swerdlow ’20 and Antonia Hellman ’21 to increase undergraduate voting rates in national and local elections. The resolution recommended that Stanford insert “a mandatory voter registration question into Axess” so students are “unable to enroll in courses until they decide to either register … or decline to do so.”

A similar initiative at Harvard University in 2014 doubled the number of students registered to vote, according to Swerdlow.

“We’re planning on scheduling follow up meetings with the Registrar’s Office [and] Office of the Provost to discuss the specifics,” Rosen wrote in a statement to The Daily.


Contact John Coffey at jcoffey2 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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