TRUSU’s next general election is coming up fast. Nominations closed on March 22 and postings were released on March 23, and then it’s just a short sprint to the finish line when election polling begins on March 30. In that time, student candidates will answer questions from students and student media, do their very best to get their name out there, organize with their slates (if they have one) and participate in an all-candidates forum at TRUSU. All of that is supposed to happen in just seven days.
Beyond the high expectations of candidates is the ridiculous idea that this is enough time for student voters to learn about who’s running in the election. TRUSU releases its candidate postings right away, but beyond a short biography written by the candidate, they don’t do a whole lot to show students where their could-be future leaders stand on the issues they’ll soon be addressing.
One thing making things much worse this year is that TRUSU has scheduled the all-candidates forum for Friday, March 25. That’s Good Friday. If you find that date on the university’s calendar, you’ll see “University Closed.” No one who commutes to campus will be here, and many will have left town altogether to see their families for the Easter long weekend.
So why did this scheduling snafu occur? It might have something to do with the student union’s bylaws, which state that an election must occur “no later than the last week of March.” Considering voting for this election goes through April 1, it would appear that this year’s schedule is cutting it a little close – probably too close.
But beyond the dates of the actual election, the bylaws also discuss the time periods for each stage prior. Nominations are to be taken for a minimum of two weeks and there has to be a minimum of one week between the end of that period and the start of polling.
The key word here is “minimum,” however. I see no reason why the nomination period couldn’t have started the week after reading break, leading to an extra week or two in March where candidates can campaign around campus and voters actually have time to decide who they’re voting for.
A short election makes things painless and perhaps less expensive, but it doesn’t do much to help improve student engagement or make anything more representative, two things TRUSU has struggled to do.