For the 2018 Homecoming Court elections, the Student Government Association included the Constitutional Convention vote on the homecoming ballot. Because the vote was not explained, students may not have understood what they were voting for and simply voted, if they decided to vote at all, out of obligation.
On May 1, 2018, SGA President McKenna Stone called for a Constitutional Convention in order to update the SGA constitution. The purpose of this Convention, according to a document with the steps required to complete the process written by Stone is “to revise and update the official governing documents… in order to accomplish clarity, consistency, and brevity.”
Although the purpose of the Convention vote was simply to approve the updates, which did not change anything major, none of this was explained on the voting ballot. After speaking to several students who voted on the homecoming ballot, many of them were confused when they saw the additional Constitutional Convention vote.
Stone’s goals of the rewrite were to improve consistency throughout the documents, to add online voting procedures in the Election Code and to develop a Code of Ethics for SGA, but none of this was explained on the ballot.
“Literally all I thought was, ‘I’m not sure what that’s for, so I’m not voting on it,” an anonymous Southern Miss senior said.
To give the benefit of the doubt to SGA, the intention of including the Constitution vote on the homecoming ballot was most likely to make it easier on students to get involved. Since the student body was already voting in a less serious election, they would be willing to vote on one more choice at the same time. However, the lack of explanation intimidated students, and made them choose to not vote at all; if they did decide to vote on the document updates, the students were significantly uninformed, which may or may not have been SGA’s intention in order to receive an easy approval.
On the actual ballot, the choice was to “vote yes or no on SGA governing documents.” Unless a student was directly involved in SGA, I highly doubt he or she would have any idea what the governing documents include. It does not take very long to look up the PDF for the documents on SGA’s website, but students typically do not have enough time to read through pages of text in between classes.
In the future, SGA should have a separate ballot dedicated to the updated governing documents. It may be a bit of a hassle to have two different elections, but it does not make sense to include them together, because they serve wildly different purposes.
Homecoming Court elections can be done quickly and without much thought, but students should take more time to think about their decision when it comes to decisions that can significantly affect the Student Government Association, which in turn, significantly affects the students themselves.
The updates to from the Constitutional Convention do not seem to be extreme, but for the sake of transparency, SGA should make an effort to hold an election dedicated to these documents the next time they are updated.