ASUC declassified elections survival guide

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Here we go again, fellow Golden Bears. Time is running out to map alternate routes around Sproul before candidates start walking you to class. #pleaseputa1nexttomynameonApril7 (or 8 or 9).

For all those who do not peruse the ASUC’s website on the daily, the ASUC describes itself as the “largest and most autonomous student association in the nation,” advocating “for students on a university, local, state, and national level.” The elected officials of our student government fall under two categories, the executive and legislative branches, and each is elected each year by you, the students.

We at the Clog would like to guide you through the election process to help you be heard as valuable members of the UC Berkeley community. So we have developed this convenient guide to help you out!

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What’s this whole party system about anyway?

Over the past decade, the ASUC has been dominated by two major parties, CalSERVE and Student Action, which have vied for the offices of president, executive vice president, external affairs vice president and academic affairs vice president. (Technically, all five executive offices are partisan, but the seat of the student advocate has been held by an independent for more than a decade.)

The two parties also typically secure the largest numbers of ASUC Senate seats of any party. Any number of parties, however, can register with the ASUC to run candidates in the election, or candidates can run as independents. There are usually a few non-CalSERVE, non-Student Action senators elected. (This semester there are five!)

Student Action has, since it was founded in 1995, held a lot of the senate and executive seats. They then joined with two other parties (APPLE Engineering and UNITE Greek), and candidates often ran under the banners of Student Action and one of the other parties. Under recent bylaw changes, however, candidates may now only run with one party. This election cycle, 15 senate candidates and three executive candidates are running with Student Action. APPLE Engineering and UNITE Greek are nowhere to be found!

CalSERVE — which, as you’ll probably hear, stands for Cal Students for Equal Rights and a Valid Education — is a progressive party that typically represents historically underrepresented groups on campus. CalSERVE has typically secured a significant number of senate seats, though often slightly fewer than Student Action in recent years. This year, however, CalSERVE has eight senators — including Austin Pritzkat, who ran with both CalSERVE and the Cooperative Movement Party (which we’ll get into later) — while Student Action has seven. CalSERVE also holds three of the four executive offices, but to be fair, Student Action ran only one executive candidate.

SQUELCH!, a traditionally satirical third party, has run a mix of serious and nonserious candidates in recent years. In 2013, the party entirely did away with its satirical slate to focus on its nonsatirical candidates (in our opinion depriving students of the necessary satire to make it through the election). Though the party is running three serious senate candidates this year (they won three senate seats last year), the party has returned to tradition, running an entirely satirical executive slate consisting of a king who wants to abolish the senate and implement a feudal system, a mime, a hermit crab and BobbyRPartyR, who bears strange resemblance to former Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. Long live mimes.

The Cooperative Movement Party usually secures one senate seat each year (though it didn’t win one in the 2013-14 election cycle). The senator represents students in the Berkeley Student Cooperative.

The Defend Affirmative Action Party (DAAP) — which is affiliated with the activist group BAMN, By Any Means Necessary — has run candidates for both executive offices and senate. Last year, the party ran a full slate of executive candidates and almost two dozen senate candidates, none of whom were elected to office. The last time a DAAP candidate held office was during the 2006-07 school year.

Sometimes, candidates seeking office decide not to run with an established party, but instead form their own party to run with, such as the BASED. party, formed this year by freshman Pranay Kumar Chaurasia. Chaurasia, who is running for president as the party’s sole candidate, said the party was derived from the philosophies of Bay Area rapper Lil B. Last year, presidential candidate Pierre Bourbonnais formed the BearFeed.org party for his run.

How does voting work?

The ASUC elections uses ranked-choice voting, which means voters rank candidates in order of preference. After the calculation of first-rank votes, votes are then redistributed to the voter’s second choice. The redistribution continues until there is a clear winner (or winners).

Executive offices: In order of preference, rank the candidates you would like to hold each executive office. If you don’t like all the candidates, it’s OK to just put down one or two candidates in order of preference.

Senators: Voters rank senators in terms of choice preference. Seriously, if you can rank 20 candidates, you are amazing.

Each senator needs a certain quota of votes — depending on the total number of votes cast — to win. (Last year, it was 540 votes.) So say you chose Senator A as your first choice and Senator B as your second choice. After Senator A receives 540 first-rank votes, Senator A automatically wins a seat on senate. If your vote comes in as vote No. 541, then your vote automatically skips Senator A and goes to Senator B, and so on. After that process is completed, candidates are eliminated, starting at the bottom. So if you put Senator Z as your first choice and Senator Y as your second choice, if Senator Z is eliminated, then your vote will be redistributed back to Senator Y. This process continues until 20 clear winners emerge.

Get ready for election tabulation night — it gets pretty intense.

How should I figure out who to vote for?

Do get to know as many of the candidates as possible. Or don’t, because they will probably try to get to know you. They’ll probably ask for your full name (for that social media connection) and add you or follow you. Try to see if their interests and values parallel or are similar to yours? Talk to candidates at parties. They probably didn’t review their talking points before they took that last shot.

Don’t be persuaded by vague catch phrases such as “environmental sustainability,” “transparency,” “equality” or “advocacy.” Just because candidates sound good doesn’t mean they are going to accomplish their agenda. Push them on the details of their platforms to make sure they have strong plans for accomplishing their goals.

What should I do on Election Day?

Do actually go out and vote. It’s three days, and it’s online. C’mon, kids.

Don’t let anything get in the way of voting. This is your opportunity to ensure that your voice is heard.

What should I do post-elections?

Do keep up with the individuals you voted for and hold them accountable. Make sure your vote mattered.

Don’t feel indifferently. The ASUC is there to make sure your needs are being met as a student. Go to them with any and all concerns about your experience as a student.

Happy elections season to all, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Contact Daniella Wenger at [email protected].

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article stated that the Cooperative Movement Party didn’t run a candidate in the 2013-14 election cycle. In fact, they didn’t win a candidate in the 2013-2014 election cycle.