Howard’s election season begins

Fall 2022 Mr and Miss Freshman contestants pose for a photograph on a stage. Photo courtesy of HU Electoral Officer Sarah Slaughter.

Last week officially marked the start of election season in Howard, with students running for positions in the Royal Court and student government. Student candidates have begun posting flyers, personal missions and social media platforms, and hosting events on campus to win student votes.

Students like Ahmod Newton, a freshman finance student from Philadelphia, have enjoyed the candidates’ campaigns so far. “As many people can attest, Howard University has a whole bunch of unique people. I’m definitely excited when her personality comes to the fore in her campaign, especially when I see how unique her flyers are,” he said.

Newton is excited to see how each candidate develops their campaign, but he hopes that once elected, the candidates will help students at other colleges gain more career opportunities and exposure, just as the School of Business is doing for him.

“It’s unnecessarily difficult for students from other majors to really get the same level of exposure and opportunity that I have,” Newton said. “I definitely hope that the number of opportunities available to me and my colleagues will increase.”

Other students, like Keith Golden Jr., a journalism major and photography minor from Riviera Beach, Fla., want candidates to “really make changes” once elected to their positions.

“The only thing that matters to me is whether they really mean what they say. A lot of people talk about change and making a difference, but people talk about it so much I don’t know if people will talk about it. I’m just interested in seeing if people are actually taking action about what’s going on on our campus,” Golden said.

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Howard University Electoral Commissioner and senior political scientist Sarah Slaughter suggested that students participate in “speak outs” and “crossfires,” events where candidates talk about their platforms and challenge one another. Speak Out events took place last week and Crossfires are scheduled to take place later this week.

Advertising. Scroll to read more. Crossfire events are scheduled for this week. Courtesy of Sarah Slaughter.

Slaughter also noted that students can follow these events live on the Electoral Commission’s Instagram page. “Also,” she added, “we encourage students to stop by the tabling events that take place throughout the yard and in some academic buildings. There you meet your candidates face to face and ask them all the relevant questions.”

According to Slaughter, the Electoral Commission enforces all the rules and regulations contained in the Electoral Act. They listen to all complaints that are filed and ensure that candidates meet the necessary requirements, with the overarching goal of “creating a safe and fair election where candidates and voters feel heard and respected”.

According to the Student Election Code, candidates must attend all speakouts and crossfires.

The Student Election Code also states that the Electoral Commission must approve all original campaign materials prior to distribution and reproduction. Candidates can also accept endorsements so long as they are not funded by student organizations or an officer elected by students.

Kayla Farris, a sophomore journalism student from Columbus, Ohio, is also looking forward to the start of election season. Farris is running for Senator from the Howard University Student Association, representing the School of Communications (SOC).

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“This is my first time running for office on Howard’s campus and I’m enjoying the experience so far. I very much look forward to the opportunity to run for office and represent the students at SOC,” said Farris.

Hugh Gaffinet is a junior history student from The Bronx, NY. For Gaffinet, who is running for HUSA vice president, the first week of the campaign was “more than exciting”.

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“It’s been incredible getting to know our Howard family and seeing what issues capture their attention the most, such as: “It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to bring our community a platform that stems directly from student complaints.”

While this week has been exciting, preparing for the election season has had its ups and downs for candidates like Farris and Gaffinet.

“Because this is my first campaign at Howard, I felt like I was a little underprepared for the election season,” Farris said. “I’ve run for office in my hometown before, but I think we can all agree that Howard is a whole different beast. I know I have the passion and the plan, but sometimes all the glitz and glamor of election season can be a little intimidating.”

Farris noted how many candidates give out free items, food, and gifts to students in the yard and in their schools to attract students and promote their campaigns. Under election law, no candidate for a HUSA or trustee position may spend more than $7,500, and all other candidates may spend no more than $5,500. For Farris, however, the campaign aspect has proven costly.

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“I remember thinking, ‘I don’t have the money to buy a free dinner for the whole school. So the biggest challenge for me was definitely finding ways to offset the cost of campaigning at a time of such high inflation,” she said.

The process was difficult for Gaffinet as well, as he faced the students’ lack of trust in student government. “One of the challenges I have personally faced has been convincing individuals that HUSA is worth working with,” he said. “However, I used to be someone indifferent to student government because of its potentially elitist and insular nature.”

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According to Slaughter, the vote will take place on March 30th. Election Buddy, a third-party online voting platform, will email students this Thursday at 8am. Students have 12 hours to cast their vote and the results will be announced on March 31st.

Copy edited by Nhandi Long-Shipman