Election overlap could raise voter turnout, endorsement issues for RHA and MSA

RHA Chief Justice Garrett Wilt: “You’ve got the potential for two slates, one in RHA and one in MSA, to collaborate with one another. If one of them fails, it could create an awfully awkward situation.”

The Missouri Students Association and Residence Halls Association presidential elections will intersect for the first time due to the MSA special election.

The RHA election is at the end of February and the beginning of March every year. Voting for this year’s RHA election will be from 10 a.m. March 2 to 10 a.m. March 4. Voting for the MSA special election will begin at 8 a.m. Feb. 29 and end at 5 p.m. on March 2, creating a seven-hour overlap between the two elections.

RHA Chief Justice and head of the Elections Committee Garrett Wilt said voter turnout could potentially rise due to the coinciding of the elections. Both MSA and RHA tend to advertise for their elections in the residence halls because most of the voters in both elections live on campus.

“The most involved population of (voters) are always within the residence halls, usually those younger students,” Wilt said. “When folks move off campus and get more intensively involved in their coursework, they start to care a little less.”

MSA Senator and RHA presidential candidate Matt Bourke hopes that holding the two elections together, at least this year, will increase voter turnout for both.

“By these two elections running concurrently, students will not only see that they can vote in more elections, but they’ll see all the different elections they can work with,” he said.

Bourke said the overlap initially worried him, but he now has a different perspective.

“The fact that the two largest undergraduate student governments will start together will actually be very beneficial to both organizations because they will be able to learn together,” he said.

MSA is currently reviewing legislation that would move its election to the spring semester permanently. The proposal is currently in the second reading of acts in full Senate. If approved, the MSA election would be held on the first Tuesday of every March. RHA bylaw 10.1.3 states the election “shall occur on the Thursday of either the third or fourth week of February.”

The two elections’ voting times would not overlap, but campaigning would.

Bourke said the MSA and RHA slates could discuss their goals for the campus together, since the elected slates will begin their terms at the same time. Wilt said he also sees this potential benefit.

“Slates could collaborate and make joint efforts in this very formative time of their leadership careers because they can set their direction and get going at the same time,” Wilt said.

However, he said, conversations could lead to endorsements, which could be problematic.

“You’ve got the potential for two slates, one in RHA and one in MSA, to collaborate with one another,” Wilt said. “If one of them fails, it could create an awfully awkward situation where the winning slate in the other organization has to work with the slate they didn’t necessarily endorse.”

This has never been an issue in the past because MSA and RHA slates have never previously coexisted, he said, and the likelihood of endorsements would go up if MSA moves its election permanently.

RHA as a whole and its individual executive board members are not allowed to endorse anyone running for office in any of the other eight student governments involved in joint session. RHA Speaker of Congress Alex Johar said this was a recently adopted amendment to the RHA constitution.

“Some representatives were talking about that (rule) extending to the slates as well, to avoid potential biases (or) hard feelings between the two organizations and help us all work together,” Johar said.

He said that while RHA may be able to prohibit endorsements from its own side, the organization cannot control endorsements from MSA. Still, he said, moving the MSA election to the spring semester could improve communication between RHA and MSA.

“Ultimately, we work to serve the students, and we want that to work as efficiently and as best as possible,” Johar said.

Voting for the MSA election will be at vote.missouri.edu, an online platform run by the Department of Student Life, and RHA voting will be on a different platform run by the Department of Residential Life. The different websites should prevent confusion regarding who is running in which election, Bourke said.

The aspect of the elections that might be confusing is the fact that every slate’s tagline has “MU” or “Mizzou” in it.

“People that are really interested (will have) to look at each platform and understand what area they’re coming from,” Bourke said. “(The election overlap) will help people learn the platforms better because they have to understand (four) different slates running for two separate organizations. It will help them figure out what people are actually standing for.”

Edited by Waverly Colville | wcolville@themaneater.com

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