The Arizona Desert Lamp

On Signature Requirements for Candidacy

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 21 January 2009

SignaturesOf course there’s a reason for the signature requirements to become an official candidate. In theory, you can question the unfair nature of the process, supporting a policy of allowing anyone with the basic requirements to enter as a candidate, and allowing the cream to rise to the top during the campaign process. In practice, however, the headaches that would arise from finding room for 99 candidates at a debate, for going through finance reports, and so forth, would be crippling.

But why the strict requirements of hard-copy signatures, on officially sanctioned forms (see chapter 4 of the Elections Code for the sordid details)? The logic behind it is not spelled out explicitly in the Elections Code, but its not hard to parse: signatures + SIDs are verifiable expressions of support. Except, that in practice, they really aren’t. I offer the following vignette as an dramatic demonstration of what actually happens:

(JOHN and TOBY are sitting in their dorm room, playing Xbox. Three loud knocks are heard on the door.)

JOHN: Hey, get the door.

TOBY: Get it yourself. You’re about to get killed, anyways.

JOHN: Bullshit.

TOBY: Oh, yeah?

AMANDA (slightly opening the door): Can I come in?

JOHN: Uh, yeah — sure. Just give us a second.

(AMANDA is wearing a brown sun dress, and bearing a clipboard. She stands awkwardly near the door, smiling wanly. The boys have yet to avert their eyes from the television set.)

JOHN: That’s right, bitch. Eat it!

TOBY (muttering): Dammit. (He throws the controller to the ground.

AMANDA: Well! I’m Amanda Smith, in room 415. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind signing my

JOHN: Yeah, sure, whatever. (He takes the proffered clipboard, and scrawls his name. AMANDA takes the clipboard to TOBY)

TOBY (talking to Amanda as he signs):  Y’know, you probably don’t want his support. He is an asshole.

JOHN: You want me to kick your ass again

TOBY: Bring it.

(They both pick up the controllers.)

AMANDA: Well, thanks for your support.

(The boys do not respond as she shuts the door behind here.)

In this case, it’s hard to claim that John and Toby actually “support” Amanda, in the sense of her being an effective candidate or a worthwhile person. All that’s been demonstrated is a basic modicum of civility — which would have been exercised for just about anyone who did the same thing, regardless of their merits.

What the Elections Commission should consider is whether they are looking for quantity of support — a show of a large voting bloc — or quality of support. If it is quantity that the Commission seeks, then there’s no real reason to posture with regards to “official” — the forms should be made available online, with a potential candidate free to print off as many forms as they need. (ASUA also saves on paper costs if providing the forms lies on the candidate’s shoulders.) Students should be able to sign petitions via WebReg — which would also allow students studying abroad to not just vote, but to have a say in whom they vote for as well.

None of this, however, solves the problem of the sincerity of support. What might work as an alternative would be a system which dramatically reduces the number of signatures, but ups the requirement of each signatory. For example, a candidate for Senate would only need fifteen signatures to qualify, but each signature would have to be accompanied by a written page, explaining why they think that the person they are signing off on would be a good candidate. Such a system prevents the quick-sign process from taking hold, while still providing the slight hurdle to ensure (slight) seriousness among candidates.

Perhaps both of these systems could be combined: candidates could opt for either the handwritten endorsements or the short signature approach. This could result in candidates of high caliber minds inserting themselves into debates with candidates possessing large networks; and hopefully, this will force for better ideas to percolate throughout the conversation, even if the candidates with these ideas don’t have the numbers to get elected.

Yet as things stand, potential candidates now have six days left to run willy-nilly from dorm room to dorm room, picking up meaningless, unconsidered signatures in an attempt to show their worthiness as potential administrators of student government. I fail to see the connection between the two.

Image courtesy of Flickr user rochelle, et. al.


4 Responses

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  1. […] Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on January 27th, 2009 A few days ago, I wrote about some of the absurdity of applying to be an ASUA candidate. Now, it seems, the Elections Commission is slightly easing up: […]

  2. The Arizona Desert Lamp said, on 18 February 2009 at 10:52 am

    […] this problem would never have happened were there sane signature requirements for candidacy. Last year, no primary was necessary for ASUA’s executive positions: President […]

  3. […] if there hadn’t already been enough elections madness for one year, the ballot itself has now been changed in media res: Voters […]

  4. […] of any outside student input. Take something like signature requirements. While this site has argued for reducing such standards for ASUA elections, there’s still a very strong case for their […]

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