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Saturday, May 28, 2005
Daily Cal Gets Election Reform Wrong
My comments here stipulate that voters are voting based on their conception of which candidate would be the best, not who is their friend. I realize that this is not currently the case, but I believe there is a chance next year to use online voting to dramatically increase the number of voters, and also to increase the number of voters who are making informed decisions when they vote. These comments also apply more to Senate rather than Executive races, although the principle still holds to some degree.
The Daily Cal ran an editorial called, "Analyzing the Aftermath" after the election:
It’s easy to see in this year’s election that this super-group came out to the polls in full force—they voted straight down the party ballot, resulting in Student Action’s domination of the executive seats. This reveals an alarming tendency: Voters are electing their officials as a group, not based on individual qualifications.This tendency isn't nearly as alarming as the Daily Cal thinks. I've been to a handful of Senate meetings, but it is apparent that a large majority of the important or controversial business occurs along party lines. So in that context, when trying to figure out what will happen in the Senate in the future, it is more important to know the balance between parties, than which specific individuals are in the Senate. Furthermore, it's usually pretty easy to figure out which way the parties will vote on upcoming issues (internet voting, RRC funding, the Multicultural Center, etc.)
Secondly, and more importantly, it's nearly impossible to figure out what individual candidates will do once they are in the Senate. The most interesting thing I learned when I was working on the CalStuff evaluations of Senators was the admission from a former Senator of why she hadn't accomplished some of the things that she had promised. She told me that she decided her campaign platform before she knew exactly how the Senate operated, what her responsibilities would be, and what she would want to accomplish as a Senator.
As long as no one cares whether or not Senators accomplish what they said they would once they are elected (and no one does), then they have no incentive to follow up on their campaign pledges. The Daily Cal is complicit in this by writing articles about incumbents who are ASUC candidates (such as 3 of the 4 Student Action executives) without referring to whether or not they made good on their campaign promises while in the Senate.
Instead, students need access to public candidate forums, where they can see wannabe officials sweat in the spotlight. The current forum is only attended by party members and the Daily Cal, which uses it to choose endorsements. With a large forum, students could judge which candidates understand the office they’re running for—and which spew party rhetoric.First of all, there are already a number of candidate forums. The ASUC Elections Council puts on two of them, and the Daily Cal holds a third one. There is also a Greek candidate forum that is open to the entire public.
But people don't attend these forums. Candidates walked out of both Elections Council forums because no one showed up to watch them. The reason no one cares about these forums is because it doesn't really matter what people say (as I explained above). In our current environment, the important things that voters need to know is what party a candidate is in, and how hard that person would work. And you can't figure out how hard a worker is from a forum.
Instead, students need access to public candidate forums, where they can see wannabe officials sweat in the spotlight. The current forum is only attended by party members and the Daily Cal, which uses it to choose endorsements. With a large forum, students could judge which candidates understand the office they’re running for—and which spew party rhetoric.Wrong again. Poise and articulacy are signs of someone with charisma, which wouldn't necessarily make someone a good ASUC official (not that charisma would hurt). I think it's clear that more/better forums aren't the answer.
I think part of the motivation for this editorial is the Daily Cal's concern that their forum is going to be irrelevant next year. Year after year they have been endorsing CalSERVE candidates, and then Student Action wins the election. If Student Action doesn't show up to the forum, then the endorsement becomes meaningless (which is in Student Action's interest, and frankly, I don't understand why they go every year). So the Daily Cal wrote an editorial trying to convince people how important their forum is so that people will continue to take it seriously.
This post wasn't just to criticize the current system. I have my own solution in mind that doesn't involve the Daily Cal's overly optimistic view that if everyone went to their forum, then things would be better. More on that in another post, as this one has gotten too long already.Email This Post!
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