Questions about the ethicality of the way votes are gathered and campaigns are spread for student government elections may spark change in how elections are run in the future.
Sarah Ramaker, Dixie State University’s newly elected student body president and a senior dance major from Midland, Michigan, said she is currently working on better ways to gather votes for future DSU Student Association executive council elections. Ramaker said she doesn’t want to talk about specifics on how she would change the election process until she has gathered some more student input.
“It’s been something on the forefront of my mind since I’ve been elected,” Ramaker said.
C.J. Dever, a senior business administration major from Provo who lost by 71 votes to Ramaker, said the student government elections were “a joke,” and “pathetic.”
“The way votes are gathered is insanity,” Dever said.
Many of Ramaker’s and Dever’s supporters stood around campus with smartphones and tablets asking students to vote during the election period.
“For the most part, it’s whoever has the most iPhones and the most tablets out there getting people to vote,” said Cajun Syrett, a sophomore integrated studies major from Bryce Canyon City. “If you don’t have as many people out there doing that for you, you’re not going to win the elections.”
Dever said there are hardly any rules or anything preventing candidates from recruiting friends to pressure students walking around campus to vote.
“I saw last year that that was how Matt (Devore) won [student body president],” Ramaker said. “So that’s how I approached it.”
Ramaker said many students thanked her for being on campus and showing them how to vote.
Official DSUSA student election bylaws only prevent candidates and campaign materials from being within 50 feet of voting stations. There was only one voting station set up outside the Gardner Student Center, which Ramaker said not many people used. Other bylaws refer to the placement of signage, directions on how to write in other candidates, and how to qualify to be a candidate.
“Candidates may be getting a lot more votes (by campaigning around campus for votes), but most of them are uneducated votes that don’t know what they’re voting for,” said Josh Boggess, a senior communication major from Layton. “[The DSUSA election] is just a popularity contest.”
Voting for final elections was open for just over one day, which Boggess said was too short of a time frame to get an acceptable amount of participation from educated students. Even though elections were brief, Ramaker said she tried to educate as many people as possible about the other candidates as well as herself.
“I encouraged my team to take on more of my personality and encourage them to be kind,” Ramaker said. “I even was like: ‘This is me, (and) this is [Dever] … I’m obviously giving you a biased opinion because my name’s Sarah Ramaker.’ But I tried my best to highlight [other candidates’] positive qualities as well.”
Boggess said some of Ramaker’s supporters campaigning for votes around campus were asking students to simply take a survey on their phones when it was actually the official voting website. Ramaker said she tried to stop her supporters from misleading students by telling them they were taking a survey instead of actually voting as soon as she heard about it.
Dever said until there is an efficient way to educate students about all the candidates, students shouldn’t be the ones voting.
“It should be like a job interview with a committee to pick the best-qualified candidate,” Dever said. “As it is right now, students are bombarded with signs around campus that don’t say anything about the candidates’ positions. ”
Ramaker said 0.06 percent of all student fees go towards printing the signs. Money from student fees is spent on the signs to give equal opportunities to all the candidates, Ramaker said.
Dever said because of the way votes were taken, there was “no room for niceness” in the elections. One of Dever’s campaign signs on the corner of University Avenue and E 300 South went missing during the week before final elections. Dever said it was windy the night before, but he suspected the sign had been stolen because the sign posts were missing as well.
Dever said he complained about the missing sign in the DSUSA office and threatened to check security camera footage if it wasn’t replaced.
“Turns out, there was no security cameras there,” Dever said. “But the next day, the same exact sign miraculously came back with brand new sign posts.”
Ramaker said she wasn’t involved and didn’t know Dever thought the sign was stolen until after the elections.
“I would like to put the drama of the elections in the past and focus on what I can make of my time as student body president,” Ramaker said. “I knew, as a candidate, that there was going to be a way to get the job done. If I thought it should have been done differently, once I won the position of student body president, then I could make a change if I see fit and the student body sees that that needs to be changed.”