You walk into the galleria on the first day of student council elections and are bombarded with posters. They scream “VOTE FOR ME” and display catchy slogans involving candidates’ names. 39 candidates and a cap of 60 posters each means that we have 2000 posters plastering the walls of the first floor for a week until they are inevitably recycled. These posters never give any information on what candidates actually plan to do because there is no need for them to; students do not find platforms important when deciding whom to vote for. So while there are many important factors when it comes to winning a SAC election, a good platform is not one of them. Here’s a little guide on all you need to have a chance at getting into student council:
Do you know what your position entails? Irrelevant as long as you have a large enough group of friends! Don’t have a real platform? Just make a few vague sentences about “bringing the school together” and how important equality and unity are without actually saying what you plan to do. That should be good enough. Worried about speeches? Don’t be, all you need to do is shout-out to your friends, make a few poses, or drop a few rhymes. After all, we all know rappers make the best treasurers. There is no need for anything of substance. And don’t forget, it’s all about your personality and appearance, so now is a good time to take out those modelling photos and learn Photoshop. Now, you know you want to get into student council, but not sure of any specific reason? Just say it is because you want the power and authority that comes with it.
In the presidential debate between Arora Chen and Ejay Vidad, the candidates were asked what they plan to do to increase informed voting and discourage popularity voting. They responded by saying that you cannot “force information on students and expect them to retain it” and also that “popularity contests are going to be happening everywhere, in any election … that’s just how the world works.” Essentially, neither candidate has plans on actually addressing this problem. The mentality is that if we cannot fix the problem then we should not try.
This problem of students being voted in based on their popularity is one that boils down to how elections are organized. Marc Garneau’s elections are about posters which do not have any real information on them, speeches which are about who can hype up the crowd, or who has the best sunglasses, or the best rap. Speeches might have a few vague lines about what might happen, but no concrete ideas. This current system where students can get away with being apathetic is detrimental to student council, as there is no guarantee that elected candidates are even remotely dedicated to their positions. Student council needs to alter how elections are run.
What can SAC do to try to fix this problem? Decrease the cap on posters per person, and have them be in designated poster spots such as near the cafeteria entrance or on the wall opposite the library. This way candidates are forced to compete based on who has better ideas, rather than who can push out more posters. Secondly, there should be a spot for candidates to put up their platforms so students can compare. As of when this article was written there have been about 170 unique visitors to The Reckoner’s SAC candidates overview page. Having them physically presented in the school would increase platform visibility. Finally, remove the speeches, which provide no real substance in the first place. Instead, have a few people read out the candidates’ policies, or potentially have a smaller version of the presidential debate on stage. Finally, on the voting page, along with the candidate’s name and face, have summarized notes of their ideas, so that students can compare them even during the voting stage.
In elections, you are not voting for pretty faces on colourful posters, nor clever raps which substitute actual speeches. You are voting for platforms, policies, and ideas. The student council election should not be a glorified prom king/queen competition.