Sitting Down with Shruthi Sundaram

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Shruthi Sundaram, a junior and the UNC Board of Elections Chairwoman, discusses the upcoming election as well as last year’s election in the Student Government office in the Union. Sundaram discussed how student government prepares for the election, what she learned by participating in last year’s election and what the differences are between the upcoming and the previous elections. When asked what the biggest lesson she learned from last year’s election was, Sundaram responded, “Getting off on the right foot is one of the best things you can do.” Sundaram began her involvement in Student Government her freshman year at UNC.

Coming off a student body president race defined by bad blood, Shruthi Sundaram is looking to make sure this year will be different.

Sundaram, chairwoman of the Board of Elections, will be in charge of implementing the revisions to campus election law crafted by Student Congress since last spring.

The revisions to the Student Code’s Title VI, which governs election law, include the creation of a points system for candidates’ violations and the approval of online signatures as a method for candidates to appear on the ballot, among other things.

DTH: How are you preparing for the upcoming elections?

Shruthi Sundaram: I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on (election law), making sure I understand the different sections, how they changed from last year, and how they are the same.

I know some of the problems we had last year came from the fact that as the Board of Elections, part of our job is to interpret some of the rules in Title VI, and some of the issues that arose last year were because we interpreted them differently than Student Congress intended for us to.

When we make decisions this year, it is going to be with more input from Student Congress, as far as “we wrote this to mean this.”

DTH: Do you think the election season will be as contentious this year as it was last year?

SS: I sure hope not, but I don’t think it will be because last year there were just a lot of factors that met that kind of gave way for the situation to occur. A lot of those factors aren’t here as far as some of the people. It’s a different mix of people and different characteristics are coming into play.

And Title VI has been re-written to take out a lot of the ambiguity of things, so hopefully some combination of those two and just being more prepared and knowing not to let things get out of hand to start with.

DTH: What lessons did you learn from last year’s elections?

SS: I think one of the biggest lessons… is that getting off on the right foot is the best thing we can do.

Last year, it seemed that as soon as we got to the mandatory candidates meeting, it was just one instance after another of things that people had done wrong. So I think going into the meeting and making sure that everyone is very well aware of what they can and cannot do is going to help a lot.

Not that we were necessarily ambiguous last year, but maybe just not stressing the importance of how much everyone really needed to stick to the laws. I think first and foremost, going into it and making sure all the candidates understand what’s going on and what we expect of them is probably the biggest lesson.

DTH: What’s going to be different about this election cycle?

SS: I think a big part of it is going to be how different Title VI is, since the rules are kind of different… It’s the same basic layout, but a lot of the smaller nuances of Title VI have been changed. So just the fact that we’re playing with different rules this year means that a lot of it is going to be different that way.

And then we’re hoping to make sure the candidates know what is expected of them and how we expect them to behave, and also to follow the rules and really hold them to that.

DTH: What do you hope to achieve as chairwoman in this upcoming election?

SS: I would really love to see the election be run fairly and with accurate results, and come out on the other side being able to say that not every year has to be like last year was. I know that we put forth our best effort last year, and I was proud of us for still coming out on the other side, making some of the tough decisions we had to.

Contact the University Editor ?at university@dailytarheel.com.

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