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Students questioning necessity of endorsements for USG campaigns

Endorsements for USG candidates are being called into question after a student organization revoked its support for several campaigns


"The USG Elections Commissioner believes endorsements will improve student voter turnout for USG elections." Illustration published on Thursday, April 25, 2019.

Students are questioning the necessity of the Undergraduate Student Government elections endorsement process after several candidates had their endorsements revoked during the 2021-22 USG election season.

The Black African Coalition withdrew endorsements of six USG Tempe senate candidates and one USG Downtown executive ticket after finding the candidates and their personal political views did not represent the views expressed to the BAC during the endorsement process.

“I think it’s really interesting how, despite USG elections being purposefully apolitical, the Council of Coalitions is inherently political in nature, so their endorsements bring a political element into the USG elections,” said Izaac Mansfield, a sophomore studying innovation in society and computer information systems and the senator-elect for the College of Global Futures.

USG's main purposes include advocating for student initiatives and services and distributing funding from the student activity fund to clubs and organizations, with political issues only coming into question when they affect ASU students. However, Mansfield believes it’s important to consider the political views of USG candidates when voting.

“I personally think this is a good thing because it helps constituencies get an idea for the moral and personal philosophies of the people they are voting for,” Mansfield said of the endorsement process. 

Ben Davis, USG elections commissioner, said endorsements are used to encourage students to become more involved in elections, not for political purposes. 

“We feel that if we allow organizations and individual students to have a bigger role in the elections by endorsing, then there's a higher likelihood that they will vote,” said Davis, a junior studying finance.

Some students say that endorsements from individual students don’t help when deciding whom to vote for, and can even come off as disingenuous.

“It just seems like it's only friends endorsing each other as if it’s not a big-deal election that's voting for people that are representing thousands of students in a particular college,” said Sanjin Gonilovic, a freshman studying electrical engineering. 

Gonilovic said endorsements from student organizations have more value than those from individual students, like fraternity and sorority presidents.

“If you just take random students from the street like, ‘Hey, do you support me and why,’ that's not entirely meaningful, especially if your campaign is just saturated with endorsements from all these random people that nobody seems to recognize,” Gonilovic said.

Students like Gonilovic and Mansfield believe that the endorsement process should be changed to allow for a more thorough vetting of candidates and better endorsements.

“The coalitions are not as political as a political club, but they do hold certain values, and I would assume they would want to make sure that the candidates they endorse somewhat embody those values,” Mansfield said.

Davis said the Elections Department is open to suggestions from students and candidates about how to improve the Elections Code, but it can only oversee so much of the candidates' activities.

“Our job is a very large one and we do need to trust the candidates and student organizations with handling certain responsibilities and simultaneously sort of maintain the integrity of the election; but we can't obviously micromanage over 100 candidates with endorsements,” Davis said.

Additionally, the Elections Department has no power over student organizations and their endorsement vetting processes, leaving the integrity of endorsements up to the leaders of those organizations.

Gonilovic hopes future candidates and student organizations will be more cognizant of students’ opinions when seeking and giving out endorsements.

“I understand that a lot of people who are generally interested in contributing to the student government might not have the connections in order to make that possible,” Gonilovic said. “I'm more interested in the action than the possible clout a candidate has.”

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