In light of confusion and miscommunication over election guidelines last year, the Yale College Council has implemented several new election reforms that will begin with the upcoming election.
After discussing potential changes with last year’s YCC vice president, this year’s vice president, Heidi Dong ’20, took her proposals to the YCC executive board and YCC President Saloni Rao ’20. Some of the election reforms include changes to the endorsement process, elimination of the precampaign period for candidates and other managerial changes.
Dong said that while the YCC vice president technically has ultimate oversight of the election process, she felt uncomfortable single-handedly driving these changes. She added that it was important for her to run these changes by the YCC Senate in particular, since many YCC senators end up running for higher office.
“It’s still my decision in the end,” Dong said. “But I wanted to make sure I incorporated the feedback from YCC stakeholders.”
Rao said that after researching the election guidelines of some of Yale’s peer institutions — such as those at Harvard University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University — she found that Yale’s guidelines were “lagging behind” in terms of the endorsement process and other election logistics.
“A lot of the changes we made were intuitive and logical,” Rao said.
Dong said that the main change students should be aware of is the new endorsement process. Last year, student organizations could endorse a candidate if they attended the candidate debate hosted by the YCC and the News. But this year, student organizations will have to adhere to much stricter rules.
Now, all student organizations must conduct individual interviews of equal length and nature with each candidate. Furthermore, student organizations must disclose any past or present affiliations with candidates, and these affiliations will be listed on the ballot.
“We think that this will give a lot of weight to organizations that choose to endorse,” Dong said. “We really just want to ensure a more equitable process.”
Still, Dong said that most of the changes made were intended to change the way candidates campaign. Previously, candidates for president or vice president were only required to attend three YCC Senate meetings. But now these candidates must also attend at least one meeting of the Council of Representatives, a new body created under the current administration. Through this change, Dong said she wanted to ensure that candidates for high-level positions engage with the important issues brought up at these meetings.
Dong added that prior to the reforms, candidates were not allowed to “actively campaign” during a precampaign period. Those that were running for officer positions could put together campaign teams and platforms, but Dong said it was unclear what actively campaigning meant.
“That’s kind of a really weird gray area — what are you allowed to do during precampaign, what are you not allowed to do,” Dong said. “So we just eliminated it completely. Now there’s a hard start to campaigning.”
Other changes YCC leaders made were focused on more managerial aspects of the election, such as clarifying spending limits for joint tickets and how to submit complaints. Dong added that these election reforms are meant to increase clarity and legitimacy during contentious election periods.
“It’s hard to enforce something no one really understands,” Dong said.
While the majority of Dong’s initial proposals ended up in the final reforms, Dong said that there were many discussions over each idea. She added that there were some potential changes that were not ultimately included in the reforms. Dong mentioned that they had considered implementing a moratorium on campaigning while voting was open but decided not to in the end.
“We want to ensure that the process by which these things come about is fair and thorough,” Dong said.
The Yale College Council was established in 1972.
Alayna Lee | firstname.lastname@example.org .