Over 200 years ago, the founding fathers of the United States had a vision of a democracy — a society where the people’s voice mattered and a government was set up of the people, by the people and for the people. An important part of the system involved voting elections so people could decide for themselves who would best represent their voice.
BYUSA elections are rightfully based on the democratic system. Each student cannot go before President Bateman with his or her ideas and concerns, so students place their votes for the candidate who will best represent them while a student at BYU. The BYUSA president and vice president exist to represent the student body. However, a spirit of secrecy and mistrust has permeated this year’s campaign and seems to tell the students, “All we want is your vote,” instead of “How can we serve you?”
The problems started with the polls opening only two hours after the candidates announced they were running. While some students waited to learn more about the teams’ platforms and stances before voting, the gesture seemed more hungry for the vote than to hear the student voice. Polls for the U.S. presidential race do not open the same day candidates announce their intent to run because platforms change and issues arise over the course of a campaign. While the level of influence between the U.S. president and the BYUSA president is hardly comparable, the same fundamental principle of democracy should be the core of any campaign that exists to represent the people.
Platforms did change in this year’s student election. Well into the voting period, BYUSA asked some of its candidates to change their platforms because, although they may have been constructed with good intentions for the student body, they were deemed unfeasible. Unfortunately, some votes had already been cast.
The Daily Universe reported Wednesday that two candidates did not meet the requirements to run in the race. This went undetected at BYUSA because background checks are not required. David Lucero, Assistant Director of Student Leadership, said candidates are put on their honor. While basing a campaign on honor is a noble idea, it only allows for more misunderstandings and secrecy.
Janet Scharman, Dean of Students, said that unfortunately, the damage has been done in this year’s election. However, BYUSA is already looking at ways to remedy this problem for next year’s campaign. She acknowledged that students are confused and are mistrusting the system at this point because of misunderstandings of the candidates, the media and the student body.
But while there is a fundamental integrity in the system and the problems arose out of good intentions, BYUSA should not forget who they here to serve. Withholding information or misleading the public, no matter the reason, is not following the democratic principles elections are founded on.
The Daily Universe reported Friday that campaign violations occurred. But BYUSA refused to tell the voting public who violated the rules or what the violations were. BYUSA deals with campaign violations on a case-by-case basis and coordinates the punishment to fit the violation. Lucero said that for the last several years it has been BYUSA’s policy not to disclose campaign violations to the media because it believes that would place another uncontrollable consequence upon the candidate. Officials may not have thought the violations were substantial enough to concern the election, but BYUSA should have had the democratic courtesy to let the people decide if their individual vote would be affected or not. By refusing to inform the voters of the issues arising from the campaign because it prefers to keep it an internal affair, BYUSA has a democratic violation of its own — mere numbers were emphasized instead of the voice of the people.
Wednesday’s extension of the voting period was a good gesture to give the students more time to sort out the platforms and other issues of this campaign. BYUSA is an organization that has provided many service opportunities to the student body and regularly takes the student voice before the university president. And while BYUSA is already working to resolve these problems for next year, it is a shame that before this year’s candidates have gotten into office, they have already forgotten why they are running — not for the vote of the people, but for their voice.
This editorial is the opinion of The Daily Universe Editorial Board. Daily Universe opinions are not necessarily the opinion of BYU, its administrators or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.