UMD’s Student Government Association hosts town hall on election reform

By Jaqueline Zegler.

On October 2, the University of Maryland’s Student Government Association held an open town hall meeting in order to gain some feedback from students on SGA election reform. Christian Knapp, Chairman of the Task Force on Election Reform, opened the meeting with a few statistics on past elections and a brief overview of the SGA election laws.

 In 2016, the only 6 percent of the student body turned out for SGA elections.  This past election, that number rose to 8 percent.  The 2017 SGA election was also plagued with scandal of its own.

The Unity Party withdrew all candidates from the race after it was found to be violating campaign finance rules. Organizations are not allowed to donate to any given candidate’s campaign and spending is capped at $2,000, which must be carefully documented by each candidate. However, it was found that the party received donations in the form of logo designs from a non-profit organization.

The party dropped out of the race one day after campaigning officially began, leaving many seats uncontested. 

The meeting then moved to ideas for the next election cycle in order to avoid this issue in the future and increase voter turnout.  A majority of the ideas presented involved the SGA making themselves more known on campus, whether it be through listservs or more student government sponsored events around campus.  

One student suggested that election events begin earlier in the year so that students who wish to get involved who are not already have the opportunity to do so.  Currently, the deadline to file for election is at the end March. Information sessions on signing up are held in the beginning of that month.  Other ideas ranged from parties campaigning with more descriptive party names, to the Student Government Association being more active in everyday student life as opposed to just during the 10 days they are allowed for campaigning.

The meeting was noticeably full of students who are involved in some way with UMD SGA. 

“The feedback we received on Monday will be critical to the task force as we form our recommendations,” Knapp said. “I wish we had been more successful in attracting students from outside the SGA. Luckily, we’ve been meeting one on one with student group leaders to get the perspectives of students who aren’t currently involved in SGA.”

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