SGA Elections Underway Amid Challenges of New Semester


E&H SGA on Facebook

The banner of the E&H SGA. (E&H SGA on Facebook)

Asha Thomas, Guest Contributor

Polls opened to both on campus and virtual students at Emory & Henry College for the 2020-2021 Student Government Association (SGA) elections on Monday, August 24. Usually, this time would signify a period of personal campaigning around the main campus, but with COVID-19 safety restrictions in place, this election looks different from its predecessors. 

This year, the elections are being conducted from Qualtrics, the school’s survey and balloting platform, with proportional representation using a ranking system known as the single transferable vote. 

This ranking system is preferable to voting for a single candidate because it shows how voters would have behaved if a given candidate were not in the race. This system thus removes the spoiler effect, a political situation that, according to The Center for Election Science, occurs when a non-winning candidate’s presence on the ballot affects which candidate wins.  

Like in years past, voting is being held online; however, with the campus split between virtual and in-person learning, the campaigning process has changed. Orlando Martinez, a senior from Houston, Texas, has run and been elected for many positions of leadership within student government at E&H. He has vast experience with campaigning and feels that running for senior senate during the COVID-19 pandemic has been very different from his previous years of campaigning. 

“Anyone who knows me knows that I make a point to memorize every voter’s name and field of study, as well as their academic year,” Martinez said. “I love meeting [potential voters] and hearing from them in person much better than I do online.” 

Despite the restrictions of COVID-19, Martinez feels that his online presence on platforms such as Twitter and Snapchat will help him in his campaign. Freshman senate candidate Carlee Sullins shares similar views on the difficulty of this year’s election process, especially being in her first year at E&H.

“[COVID-19 restrictions have] made it more difficult to reach out to [potential voters] and make new friends, which is how I campaign,” Sullins said, referring to previous leadership roles she has held outside of Emory & Henry.

Although COVID-19 has complicated the campaign process, it has not had an effect on voter turnout compared to previous years. On Tuesday, August 25, just 24 hours into the election, 23% of the Emory & Henry student body had already voted. Normally, about 33% of the student body casts a vote in the student senate elections overall.

Voting has always been a way for students to have a voice on campus. Christina Barfield, a senior at Emory & Henry, echoes this sentiment and feels that it’s important for students to vote in the election. “The SGA acts as a bridge between students and the administration so that [the administration] can hear what students think about things happening on campus,” Barfield said.

Election commissioner for the SGA, Joseph Johnson, agrees on the importance of SGA. He believes it plays a powerful role in shaping the campus experience for students. 

“It gives the students that participate in [student elections] experience in being leaders so they can hopefully take what they learn here back to their communities and improve lives there,” Johnson said. 

Polls will close Sunday, August 30 at 5 p.m. Students can log into their Emory & Henry email accounts to follow the link to vote.