The University of Minnesota’s 2018 all-campus elections were marred with setbacks, complaints and controversy, but the policy responsible for some of these issues could be changed in the future.
On March 5, professional students who participated in the election found that they were unable to vote on a controversial referendum urging the University to divest from companies supporting Israel.
Professional students were excluded from voting due to policy that allows the referendum’s sponsors to dictate which students are eligible to vote.
The referendum’s sponsor, Students for Justice in Palestine, excluded professional students when filing the request. The decision was overridden by the All Campus Election Commission after receiving several complaints.
Rachel Cardwell, president of the Professional Student Government, hopes to change this policy in the future.
“The people who put forth the referendum should not be dictating who is allowed to vote on it. I think if it's a referendum that affects all of the student body, as this would have, then it should have been voted on by the entire student body regardless of what the individual student group asks,” Cardwell said.
Cardwell is currently drafting a proposal that would automatically allow all students to vote on referenda that impacts the whole University. The proposal is planned to be presented at Wednesday’s PSG congress meeting and would be brought to ACEC if approved.
Other students on campus also criticized the policy, including Sami Rahimim, the Israel culture chair of Minnesota Hillel. The group submitted a complaint regarding the referendum itself in February.
“[It] seems like a very flawed process,” Rahimim said. “That sponsors of a referendum get to choose who their voters are is inherently anti-democratic.”
Cardwell said that she hopes to sit down with ACEC personnel in the wake of the election to discuss the policy. ACEC said they are willing to discuss the issue and the policy could be changed in the future, said communications commissioner Maria Versteeg.
“ACEC is open to meeting with anyone who would like to meet with us and discuss what happened this election season, as well as ideas moving forward. We are very open to ways that we can improve,” Versteeg said.
A quorum would need to be reached by the ACEC commissioners for a change to be made, she said.
They plan to distribute a form to the student body to collect feedback on the elections in coming weeks, she said.
Until this year’s election, MSA election voter participation had increased every year for the past 10 years. In 2017, 6,630 students voted, while this year, only 4,405 students voted.