Elections Board works on declawing the MachineBy Meghan Dorn | 02/11/2016 8:22am
CW | Layton Dudley
This past week, the Elections Board released its updated election manual for the rules and procedures of the upcoming spring SGA campaigns. There were two major changes that will impact common Machine tactics.
First, in the new rule, there is a ban on organizations hanging banners endorsing a candidate on on-campus properties. So while houses on 12th and 13th Street may hang 4 ft. wide and 8 ft. long banners proudly, it seems Magnolia and University Boulevard will be clear this year. And after the midnight theft of the pro-Spillers banner that hung on Alpha Tau Omega last year, banning banners entirely could be in the best interest of the University to protect its reputation from another public incident.
Second is a clause stating, “requiring a student to produce evidence of voting or voting for specific candidates, for example, through voting in front of someone, producing a photo of one’s ballot or producing voter confirmation email, is prohibited.” This is a big step – if word gets out to greek students to demand this freedom.
This would prevent the annual GIN messages to greek members asking them to “forward your voting confirmation email please! It should be from Kelli Knox-Hall, check your spam filter! Also remember we’re voting for Candidate X, Y, and Z!” so that house Machine representatives can collect numbers of votes cast. Or hopefully at least prevent the intimidating practice of asking members to vote in front of Machine representatives. The important part of this rule is giving members the power to decide whom they want to vote for and give some breathing room to make this decision. It also lets people decide if they even want to vote at all, instead of being coerced into “just make a decision and send it to me!”
The big loophole in these rules though is there is no official banning of organizations fining their members for not voting. Some houses charge up to a $100 fine for not turning in proof of voting, and considering the line I see every week for affordable midnight sushi, that is in no way pocket change to these students. The financial penalty is sometimes more a threat than an actual occurrence, but it is definitely a powerful way to get college students to fall in line. I can’t tell you how many events I’ve gone to and openly explained that, “I’m only here so I won’t get fined.” If the Elections Board could make this clarification that organizations aren’t allowed to make these specific threats under their definition of coercion, it could help free up students to make their own decisions by alleviating this concern.
In the end, I have to commend the Elections Board for making real changes that will help level the playing field for all candidates to reach potential voters and also giving students who are being pressured to vote to call it what it actually is – election fraud.
To learn more about the Elections Board, read the Elections Manual, and report election fraud, go to vote.ua.edu.
Meghan Dorn is a senior majoring in political science and public relations. Her column runs weekly.