On Oct. 29, Student Congress will hold its second special election of the year in an effort to fill seat vacancies, a problem that has nagged the group for years.
The organization of two special elections in the first 10 weeks of school hasn’t happened in four years, said Andrew Phillips, chairman of the Board of Elections.
“This hasn’t happened since I’ve been at Carolina — 2006 was the last time we had two elections close together like this,” he said.
Although the first election — held Sept. 21 — filled five of seven empty seats in Student Congress, four more have since opened up.
Five of the six open seats are reserved for graduate students, a demographic that Student Congress Speaker Deanna Santoro said is often hard to attract.
“It is notoriously difficult to fill graduate student seats because of the involved time commitment,” she said.
She added that the members of Student Congress who left did so because of the time commitment.
“Members realized they couldn’t either dedicate themselves to the time commitment or they had too many absences so they wanted to open up space for other students,” she said.
Title VI of the Student Code mandates that a special election be held in response to any vacancies in Student Congress.
Santoro said the Student Code requires the board to start action to fill these vacant seats within 15-30 days of the previous seat holder’s resignation.
But the law hasn’t been followed very closely in the past, said Alex Mills, speaker pro tempore of Student Congress.
“Last year we did have vacancies in the beginning, but the (Board of Elections) didn’t do anything about it,” he said.
Phillips and Santoro said they are serious about abiding by the law this year.
“I made it my priority for the elections to function as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Phillips said.
At the Wednesday meeting of candidates for the open seats, students expressed interest in two of the six openings, Phillips said.
He added that graduate students often run as write-in candidates.
Mills said seats for graduate students aren’t competitive because of the wide variety of options for involvement in student government open to them.
“We have the Graduate and Professional Student Federation,” he said. “A lot of people want to get involved in that but can’t do both commitments.”
He added that graduate students are part of a more decentralized structure, due to all of the different graduate and professional schools on campus.
Santoro said the graduate students currently in Student Congress have been very active.
She added that she is certain that the single vacant undergraduate seat will be filled.
“This year we are actually abiding by the Student Code and holding elections often to ensure that all the students are being represented,” Santoro said.
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