Nicole Herhusky | Mustang News

Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) is preparing for an entirely virtual election process this spring. 

Although ASI has conducted their elections for ASI President and ASI Board of Directors in a virtual format for several years now, the pandemic has brought additional challenges to the ASI election process, ASI Recruitment & Elections Committee member Parker Swanson said.

Candidacy filing began Monday, Feb. 8, and closed Friday, Feb. 26. If a student did not file for candidacy within this time, they may file as a write-in candidate, however, their name will not appear on the ballot. 

The active campaigning period begins Sunday, April 11 and the election will occur between Wednesday, April 21 at 9 a.m. until Thursday, April 22 at 9 a.m.

With a large percent of the Cal Poly student body displaced from campus and living at home or far from campus, the ASI Recruitment & Elections Committee is having to prepare for not only a virtual election but an entirely virtual filing period and campaign cycle, according to ASI Recruitment & Elections Committee member Jordan Perlas.

In past years, candidates would campaign with physical campaign posters around campus and in-person events. However, due to the pandemic, the board voted to suspend all physical campaign material during the Feb. 17 ASI Board of Directors meeting.

Candidates will have to abide by proper social distancing protocols and campaign in a virtual fashion, including presenting at Zoom club meetings, hosting candidate office hours to meet with and answer constituents’ questions and promoting their campaigns through social media.

According to Swanson, a virtual campaign cycle and suspension of all physical campaign material will allow for a more equitable election process as it requires very little campaign spending.

“Not having physical campaign material is not only a great sustainability measure, but it saves a lot of money for candidates and makes running for ASI much less of an expenditure,” Swanson said.

This year, with the suspension of physical campaign material, the maximum campaign spending for an ASI President candidate is $250 per candidate. In addition, the ASI Board of Director candidates will each have a $100 spending limit.

In last year’s election code, the ASI President candidate spending limit was $1,500 and there wasn’t a spending limit for ASI Board of Director candidates. These changes were passed in the 2021-2022 ASI Election Code, during the Jan. 6 ASI Board of Directors meeting. 

An entirely virtual campaigning period is not only difficult for the candidates, but is a challenge for ASI to promote the election to the student body. But ASI plans to combat this challenge with social media packets and website support for the candidates.

This will be ASI’s second year of conducting virtual campaigning as the beginning of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders began a mere month before campaigning began last ASI election cycle. 

Despite this entirely virtual campaigning process, ASI is confident in its voter participation for the spring elections.

“I’m confident we can accomplish a strong voter response even though we are navigating through a virtual environment,” Perlas said. “Although a virtual election is a challenge, I have a good feeling that we can still see an engaging student body.”

Another change ASI Recruitment & Elections committee has had to make to create a fully virtual filing system is the process of the presidential petitions.

In accordance with ASI bylaws, all ASI Presidential candidates must obtain a number of student signatures that is at least 1% of the student body to file for candidacy, according to Chair of the ASI Recruitment & Elections Committee Jordy Roth. Roth is also a member of Mustang News’ The Hill team as a data reporter.

Historically, candidates have needed to acquire approximately 200 student signatures to file for candidacy. ASI works with the Cal Poly Registrar to verify the enrollment at the beginning of the winter quarter.

In past years, candidates would go around campus to collect physical signatures. However, this year, ASI has adapted from a paper system to a virtual Microsoft Form. This process will allow the presidential petition process to be more environmentally sustainable and may be adopted for future elections, Swanson said. 

Another change being made is that the ASI Board of Directors has required candidates running for ASI President and ASI Board of Director to provide a diversity statement to run. Both the diversity statement and candidate statement will appear next to each candidate’s name on the ballot.

The addition of a diversity statement is intended to provide the candidates an opportunity to address diversity, equity and inclusion within the student body, according to Roth.

Despite the entirely virtual campaign cycle and elections, the ASI Recruitment & Elections committee has set a goal of filing more candidates than last year. After a year filled with disconnect, Perlas said she believes they will see an increase in students pushing to get involved in the Cal Poly community.

“Now that the process is more accessible, I hope that it catches the eyes of students who want to be more involved on campus,” Perlas said.

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