SGA Candidates Blame CUNY First For Low Voter Turnout
Low voter turnout in this year’s student government elections have candidates deflecting the blame from poorly run campaigns to an “unfair” election process, calling it “too tough” and technologically confusing for students.
Typically, SGA’s election process has required interested candidates to collect signatures in order to get on the ballot and during elections students could vote online through a secure website with their social security number and their CUNY ID number located on their school ID’s.
This year, however, the election process was marred with inconsistencies and confusion for students, along with new rules that eliminated the opportunity for students to run on slates, allying multiple people on the ballot.
“The election committee is made up of 14 people and we took a vote and decided to abolish slates back in October because it’s more democratic,” said Dr. Tom Zlabinger who heads the election committee. “It gives students as individuals the chance to run rather than be in groups. Candidates are then more invested in their own election as individuals.”
Current SGA President Shaikh Amin filed a complaint in an e-mail against Zlabinger,, arguing that eliminating slates is a “violation of one’s personal rights,” he wrote. However, a number of schools internationally have abolished the use of slates in colleges to avoid machine-like politics.
“The candidates need to put in more and you want the best students in it by not having slates and not having groups,” said Zlabinger in response to Amin’s accusations. “I talked to Shaikh repeatedly and the only way election is going to get better is by having input from everyone.”
“Some people did not stand behind what they said they would do,” said Student Senator Fahad Azad, justifying the abolishing of slates. “Many were just appointed and took office doing nothing for the students, so much of it was a waste of time.”
The elimination of slates, Amin said, caused more work for him and his 29 fellow candidates, requiring them to “to be more creative to reach all 8000 students,” Amin wrote.
Jannatul Tazrin, one of three student senators from York who also serves as a University Student Senate Delegate, said that it was too difficult to be familiar with the student population she wanted to represent.
“This year was really difficult running as an individual because not every candidate is familiar with the 8,000 students that attend York,” Tazrin said. “So when you tell someone to vote for you they might remember your face but as soon as they go to vote online students can get confused trying to match the name and face of the person they are trying to vote for.”
Hilma Krla De Souza, another SGA senator, felt that students did not receive ample information telling them how to vote and was opposed to the lack of voting stations.
“I felt like a lot of students did not know how to vote, they had no guidance,” said De Souza. “People cannot vote without a voting station and the fact that you’re not allowed to have laptops or ipads on the campus discourages the competition. It was an unnecessary challenge because the process required too many extra steps in order to vote.”
School officials did send out an email blast to all students and faculty advising that the election period opened May 1, ran until May 7 and providing a link to the secure voting website along with information about username and password.
“I don’t know why it was confusing,” said Zlabinger. “Last year students used their last four digits from their social security number to vote. This year we felt that the CUNYFirst ID is more secure than the social security number.”
Student Senator Azad suggested that one reason York students may feel disconnected from their student government is the disproportionate number of student senators from southeast Asian backgrounds relative to York’s total student population.
“I don’t think that just one group ethnically should be in the government or focus one goal.” said Azad. “I believe that a lot more people should be involved in student government because we want to take the views and perspectives of the students into consideration.”