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Columbia Spectator Staff

Not long after the end of election fever, Columbians are preparing to relive November 4 by getting ready to vote for a government closer to home.

As election season creeps up at Columbia, undergraduate student councils are finalizing timelines for determining their successors. Across the board, council leaders say that their goals for this year include increasing voter turnout and fostering competitive races.

On Tuesday evening, the Columbia College Student Council extended the deadline for candidate registration by two-and-one-half weeks, from Friday, Feb. 20, to Friday, March 6, at 9 p.m. Interest sessions will be held in the Student Government Offices on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. before this date. No debates, or other dates, have been shifted.
CCSC representatives attributed the schedule change to a lack of demonstrated interest due to minimal publicity. "It was a very simple decision, looking at the turnout we had," James Bogner, chair of the CCSC Elections Board and CC '10, said.

Bogner said that other campus events have dominated the news cycle, necessarily pushing student elections to the "background," but "We want to attract more candidates."

The Elections Board is chosen by CCSC during the fall and usually handles elections on its own, outside of the Council's auspices. George Krebs, CC '09 and CCSC president, said that he plans to step in and help draw candidates by sending an e-mail to the student body this weekend to encourage participation.

"I hope that students can see that the people who represent you on council do matter," Krebs said.
The complete listing of CCSC election information can be found at http://columbia.edu/cu/ccsc/elections.

On the other side of Broadway, the Student Government Association is preparing to usher in a new generation of Barnard student leaders. Sarah Besnoff, BC '09 and SGA President, said she hopes to increase the number of candidates and voters with aggressive recruiting "to have students get more ownership of their leaders."

In the past, some of the top positions have gone uncontested, so leaders this year say they are trying extra hard to pump new blood into SGA. Besnoff said there is a "huge push" to reverse previous SGA voting trends.

"It's about making people understand that leadership in a different club does translate to leadership in student government," Besnoff said. She said she hopes to amp up recruiting by reaching out to pockets of leadership previously untapped by SGA. Another key change in SGA elections is a longer campaign period "to make people more aware and excited."

SGA will send a school-wide e-mail with full campaign guidelines on Feb. 25. Intent-to-run forms must be submitted by 5 p.m. on March 27.

The Engineering Student Council has a different mechanism for choosing its executive board, which consists of five top positions. These positions are chosen internally, within the ESC body, but anyone can run. "We have one person on e-board this year who has never been on council before, but we felt she was the best person for the position," Peter Valeiras, SEAS '09 and ESC President, said. Internal elections will be held at an ESC meeting on March 23. Elections for other positions, such as class representatives and senators, will be held in April. Applications to run for these positions will be due on April 5.

Unlike other schools, SEAS has an extremely short campaigning period. Valeiras explained this time frame as being consistent with the British parliamentary system. "There, it's two weeks for an entire country, so we make it four days for an entire school," he said.

Meanwhile, the General Studies Student Council has a less formally structured election process. As of now, GSSC President Brody Berg said, the only set date will be that of elections, which will "roughly" align with that of ESC. Burg said that he has been working on developing a smooth, "professional" election process for GSSC. The Council has eschewed the intent-to-run registration deadline, which was a source of controversy last year.

Last year's GSSC elections were far from Berg's ideal of professionalism. Members of the Elections Commission resigned in April 2008, saying they had been asked to legitimize an "unconstitutional and illegitimate" election. They had said that the committee set up firm dates to file intent to run, and the judicial committee overruled this deadline and accepted filings up to three hours late for some candidates, while turning away other candidates who submitted applications during the 15-minute grace period. Much like Besnoff, Berg is hoping to change the course of his governing body's history.

"The Vice President for Policy has been working carefully to clarify election bylaws. It will be well-developed, concise, well-planned, and very effective for our constituents," Berg said.

Joy Resmovits can be reached at joy.resmovits@columbiaspectator.com

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