By Paul Holston
Posted 12:05 AM EST, Fri. April 1, 2016
Updated 11:25 AM EST, Fri. April 1, 2016
As a current undergraduate student at Howard University, I fully support our student government and its foundation. There was a reason why the Howard University Student Association was established back in 1961 and why the institution adopted its constitution in January of 1977.
I firmly believe that HUSA is the eyes, ears and voice for the student body. But it’s Spring time…and student elections have arisen.
Over the past month or so, I have witnessed countless campaign fliers, speak outs, meetings and contested debates throughout campus between candidates who are vying to attain prestige leadership roles within our student government. It’s both exciting to see my fellow Bison so passionate about the state of our institution and attentive as I’m left with skepticism of who really possesses the commitment to advocate for the students.
This particular campaign season; however, seemed to be a confusing process for both the student body and student government candidates. The re-cast election for the HUSA 56th administration’s executive slates will be open for students through BisonWeb today, Apr. 1st, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The original election was Mar. 8.
Why almost a month later is there a re-cast election today? The honest answer is that according to the Howard University Elections Commission, a group of general members selected by the General Elections Commissioner and officers that are responsible for the operations of student elections, these two statements were released in an email to students Mar. 22 and 23:
“Because the candidates for HUSA President and Vice President were not linked on the same ticket, as stated by the HUSA Constitution (Section 5Elections, Clause B, Item One) at 8 a.m. on election day March 8, 2016, we the HUSA Senate Elections Committee have determined that the candidates for those positions will re-appear on the ballot, correctly on Thursday March 24, 2016 to allow all students to cast their ballots for these positions from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. All students are encouraged to re-cast their vote on Thursday March 24, 2016 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Further information will be provided by the General Election Commission.” (Mar. 22)
“In accordance with the Senate Elections Committee and the Elections Code, the Howard University student body will be permitted to re-cast their votes next Friday, April 1, 2016 for HUSA President and Vice-President. Be advised that university-wide referendum will also be made available next week on April 1st.” (Mar. 23)
Is there a correlation between these two statements? To the average student, it can be very confusing. Many times I saw on social media of colleagues asking broad questions and statements like: “So, who won? Did we ever get our new HUSA president? Did they already have HUSA elections? I don’t know the new rules.” Vocalizations such as these are alarming.
As a concerned student of Howard University, I believe many of us who hold a vote to choose our student leaders would like to know why is it that when student government elections arrive, there seems to be a malfunction in properly executing the voting process?
Now, to the General Election Commission’s credit, there were a few unforeseen circumstances that made their job a little difficult this election season. In the end of January, a snowstorm that was known as “Winter Storm Jonas,” hit the Washington D.C. area pretty hard. Pretty hard to the point that Howard University was closed for several days from Jan. 22 to Jan. 26, which delayed most offices and organizations during that time period. As a result, the decision was made to extend the application deadline for candidates before election season started from its original deadline of Feb. 5 to Feb. 9.
Following up post election on Mar. 8, because of election contestations being submitted based on mix-ups with the voting process on BisonWeb, as well as grievances filed between camps of HUSA executive slates, the General Elections Commission postponed announcing official results on the week of Mar. 8 until after spring break, which occurred from Mar. 12 to Mar. 20. This left both candidate slates and students in the dark until after the break.
Fast forward to last week, the decision was made on Mar. 23 that the HUSA re-election would be held today. And yet, according to the Howard University Elections Codes, it states that “If necessary, the run-off election will take place on Thursday Mar. 10, 2016.” No one knows exactly why this re-election was pushed so far, but HUSA executive slates will have another chance to earn the student body’s vote in ultimately attaining the HUSA president and vice-president positions, respectively.
The point of the matter is not only should students across the university pay close attention and decide what best executive slate should properly represent us into the 2016-2017 academic year, but students should also hold our General Elections Commission accountable to ensure a fair and proper execution of the voting process for those who are running for student government as a whole.
Although reasons are unknown why BisonWeb inaccurately displayed executive slates incorrectly, I strongly believe that there needs to be a discussion of a alternative methods of voting, such as possibly having both a physical polling place and casting votes through touch screen machines or better yet, through traditional paper ballots. Not only will it encourage students to physically go to the polling place to cast their vote (although long lines would hopefully be expected), but it will also alleviate difficulties with the inconsistencies of BisonWeb in ensuring accurate and timely voting.
Folks can call me old school, but even among this tedious process, I believe this will encourage our student body to actively participate in the voting process not only through student government, but prepare them for actual voting within our nation’s political process as a whole.
Some things are better left untouched. I feel that when it comes to the student government voting process, keep it vintage and don’t fix what isn’t broken.
P.S. VOTE (bisonweb.howard.edu -> Student Services -> Student Elections) for the executive slate that YOU feel will be the eyes, ears and voice for the Howard University student body.
HUSA56 EXECTUTIVE SLATES
Allyson Carpenter & Jordan Roper – http://focusonhu.com/
Ammon Lyle & Temilayo Butler – http://synergizehu.com/
James Walker III & Aliyah Rolack – pivothu2016.wix.com/pivot
UPDATE [11:00 AM]
An executive order by the executive office of Howard University Student Association’s 55th Administration was sent out this morning once again postponing the HUSA executive slate re-election: