An article published in the Orient this week investigated several questions that arose on the ethics of the recent Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) Executive Committee election, which concluded on Monday. While we do not have reason to believe that anyone acted with malicious intent, or that the election should be repeated, uncertainty about the integrity of elections has real potential to damage BSG’s credibility on campus. We think there are a number of ways BSG can clarify or expand its election rules to prevent future problems: 

• Before the polls closed last weekend, a limited number of candidates were unofficially informed about the real-time margins of the vote, which might have given them an advantage over their uninformed opponents. There are currently no rules concerning the dissemination of vote totals, even though asymmetrical knowledge of these numbers can influence the election’s outcome. One solution to this problem is to add a rule to the by-law stating that BSG will not release information about the election until it concludes.

• In November, BSG approved a change to the election bylaws that set a $12 cap on campaign spending, all of which is provided by BSG. The initiative aimed to prevent a candidate’s personal financial resources from affecting campaigning. While the change is a good improvement to the election bylaws, there are no mechanisms for enforcement. When candidates go to the Copy Center, they pay using a BSG project code, and there is no oversight as to how much is spent and no system to determine if candidates spend their own money. BSG should implement a process for auditing candidates’ campaign spending. 

• This year, for the first time in recent memory, two candidates campaigned together. Since each candidate is allotted $12 to spend on campaign materials, a pair of candidates would technically be able to promote themselves with more funds than a candidate campaigning alone. BSG should make it clear whether or not candidates can campaign together, and if they are allowed to, should not give them an unintentional funding advantage over single candidates. 

• After a large influx of last-minute votes crashed BSG’s voting website on Sunday night, the voting deadline was extended twice. BSG could not have anticipated its website would go down, but not being clear about how it decided to extend the voting deadline, and for how long, does threaten the election’s credibility. BSG does not have any rules about extending the deadline, and since some members can have knowledge of the vote tallies before a deadline extension, the lack of rules about extensions is an opportunity for abuses. 

• Lastly, throughout the years, members of BSG’s Election Commission, including the Election Coordinator, have actively supported or campaigned for candidates. Although doing so is not against any BSG rules, it could lead to conflicts of interest. BSG would do well to define what types of interactions the supervisors of an election can have with candidates’ campaigns, and should ban any form of public endorsement from the members of the Commission. 

Collegiate student governments provide a model for future civic involvement, and bestowing students with strong democratic values should be one of Bowdoin’s goals. While BSG officer elections are obviously not as high stakes as U.S. presidential elections, it should still matter to the student body that its representatives are elected in an ethical, systematic and transparent manner. And if BSG wants its efforts to be taken seriously, it should begin by taking its electoral process more seriously.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Garrett Casey, Ron Cervantes, Sam Chase, Matthew Gutschenritter and Nicole Wetsman.