To lead MSA, hundreds of signatures still needed

A proposal to lower the barrier to run for MSA president didn’t pass at a forum on Tuesday.

MSA votes at its meeting Tuesday, Nov. 18 in Fraser Hall. The group discussed lowering the signature requirement for candidates seeking presidential election from 450 to 100.

MSA votes at its meeting Tuesday, Nov. 18 in Fraser Hall. The group discussed lowering the signature requirement for candidates seeking presidential election from 450 to 100.

Haley Hansen

Some members of the University of Minnesota’s student government body question the level of accessibility for obtaining its president position, saying a requirement for those seeking election should change.

But at a meeting last week, members of the Minnesota Student Association voted against the proposal, which would have lowered the number of signatures required to run for  president from 450 to 100.

MSA members who had hoped to cut the number said the change would increase candidate diversity and give more students an opportunity to run. But others were skeptical of the reduced signature requirement, saying it would lower the quality of elections.

“Setting the bar so low would open up the floodgates for anyone that was just trying to get some recognition and slap it on their resume,” said member Abdisamed Awed, who ran for president last year.

He said getting 450 signatures for his campaign last year wasn’t difficult, and he’s worried lowering the requirement would result in more students running who aren’t necessarily dedicated to being a strong voice for the undergraduate study body.

But MSA President Joelle Stangler said having to collect fewer signatures would allow students from a variety of backgrounds to participate in the elections and would give candidates more time to focus on their campaigns.

“There is a big difference between getting signature requirements and developing your platform and campaign,” she said.

Lowering the requirement would result in more candidates, she said, and past elections with bigger fields typically led to higher voter turnout.

Stangler also noted that there’s a large difference between the requirements at the University of Minnesota and other  institutions of comparable size, which makes it difficult to set a solid signature standard.

Two years ago, Iowa State University had a 1,500-signature requirement, said Student Body President Hillary Kletscher. Student leaders have since lowered it to 500 to widen the candidate pool.

Kletscher said decreasing the requirement increased diversity within the group of students who hoped to obtain the position — a goal MSA leaders had with their proposed change.

“We saw students who weren’t traditionally involved in student government a little more interested in running,” she said.

Kletscher said a lower requirement also makes it easier to start the campaign process, adding that it’s better for candidates to spend their time  listening to student concerns than persuading them to sign a piece of  paper.

“We just really determined that that time could be used more effectively talking about issues,” she said.

But Kletscher said she wouldn’t want to lower the requirement below 500 because candidates who are well-connected to the campus community should be able to meet that number.

Other schools don’t require students running for office to gather signatures.

University of Wisconsin-Madison Student Council Chair Gen Carter said each of the school’s colleges elect students to represent them on the council, and the council members then elect the chair.

Before this year, Stangler said the incumbent MSA president would set the signature requirement. But she said she wanted to allow the assembly to make the decision.

“I like the idea of forum making these kinds of decisions,” Stangler said.

Awed said he hopes MSA writes the 450-signature requirement into its bylaws in order to ensure it continues in future years.