ASG gears up for election season, votes for election committee


Yunkyo Kim / The Daily Northwestern

Co-chair of community relations Gillian Gilburne discuss a new resolution. The newly-formed election commission will regulate the upcoming ASG election cycle.

Yunkyo Kim, Assistant Campus Editor

Associated Student Government voted members into a new election commission at this Wednesday’s session, signaling the beginning of its annual presidential election cycle.

Composed of 7 undergraduate students unaffiliated with any campaigns, the commission is in charge of regulating major aspects of the ASG election, from the beginning to the end of the election period.

When the president and executive vice president are voted into office in the second week of the spring quarter, the commission will formally dissolve. In the meantime, they will coordinate and promote the election, host debates, assess election materials, review election guidelines and publish petitions for candidacy.

“We are there to make sure that the campaign is run in a way that is the best for students,” Margot Bartol, former election commissioner for the previous cycle, said.

Members of the commission also have the authority to judge instances of campaign infractions, and after three formal violations, they have the authority to remove a candidate from a ballot or consider articles of impeachment for newly-elected officials.

Previous election commissions have punished campaigns for violations. Weinberg junior Sky Patterson was penalized by the commission in 2018 for going against “acceptable pre-campaign activities,” such as convening with students and organizations and developing non-promotional campaign materials.

The commission had found that the campaign had recruited campaign staff before it was allowed and that it sent out a policy email that included minor promotional material. Patterson and her running mate were later elected and sworn in as executive leaders of ASG, before she resigned in December 2018 citing health and academic concerns.

Henry Molnar, a Weinberg senior and ASG chief of staff who had served in the election commission during Patterson’s campaign, said he chose to join it again as he thought it was an integral role in conflict resolution

“Election commissions are most important because ASG elections have a history of being intense and sometimes, not always fair,” Molnar said.

Still, Molnar said, choosing to serve in the commission was one of the most consequential decisions he made in ASG. The chief of staff said the student government has a tendency to have years with “vitriolic” competition as well as smooth-sailing campaigns, such as last year’s.

ASG’s most recent executive office is comprised of SESP seniors Izzy Dobbel and Adam Davies who won in an uncontested election in spring 2019. The cycle also witnessed the lowest voter turnout in the last ten years, at 852 votes.

Weinberg senator and new member of the election commission Joe Maino said his goal was to promote legislation to increase the number of votes in the upcoming cycle.

“In the past, ASG has had some issues with unethical campaign strategies and I really think that it discourages people from participating with votes,” the Weinberg first-year said. “I just don’t like that culture because it will make people disengage by being unsatisfied with their student leaders.”

Maino said he planned to increase voter rates by expanding the amount of advertising for the election through social media and posters so that students can be reminded in their everyday lives. This promotion tactic would also include requesting professors to make announcements of the election in their classes.

Bartol said that she was excited for the new generation of election commissioners and maintained that any election year can bring discussions of ethical conduct in campaigning.

“ASG comes to a little bit of a chaotic state when we decide to elect a new president and an executive vice president,” Bartol said. “Things kind of go crazy but it’s fun.”

Freshman senator Zach Kessel, who is a Daily columnist, also introduced a resolution on affirming the student body’s commitment to freedom of speech on college campuses, specifically proposed following Fall Quarter’s protests of former U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions. It was postponed indefinitely, at 12-11-5.

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