UCF Senate elections are right around the corner, but this year will be different from any other before it.
The upcoming Student Government Association Senate elections, which will take place from Sept. 22 through Sept. 24., will be the first during which handing out free food and other similar items is strictly prohibited. Unlike elections of the past, most likely remembered for free slices of pizza, students campaigning will only be able to hand out promotional items, such as business cards and fliers.
"I think that the ban on food is a good thing because students aren't voting based on getting a slice of pizza or whatever it is — they're voting because they think it's important," said Speaker of the Senate Gregory Theiss, a senior finance major.
The Supervisor of Elections and the Elections Commission are implementing new initiatives to ensure that the new bill doesn't affect voter turnout.
"We've taken measures to ensure it doesn't affect voter turnout, so I'm hoping the numbers will match and even increase," said Supervisor of Elections Eunice Wanjuri. "The election commissioners have worked hard to make sure this is an educational election."
Wanjuri also hopes that the bill shows students that money is not a necessity when running for an SGA position.
"I think that often people think 'I need a lot of money to run for this position,' when in actuality you don't," Wanjuri said.
Anyone who is in good standing with the university can run for a senate seat. Students who wish to run must abide by all of the rules and regulations of UCF, must abide by the Golden Rule, be enrolled full time and have a 2.5 GPA if they are an undergraduate student or a 3.0 GPA if they are a graduate student.
Once they meet those requirements, potential candidates must receive signatures from their peers. Petitions became available Tuesday, and the declaration of candidacy takes place from Sept. 8 through Sept. 10. Once petitions are accepted and the elections commissioners verify that a student has met all of the necessary requirements, candidates will get a call from Wanjuri and they may begin campaigning. The only requirement is that candidates attend an information session with the elections commissioners.
Although experience with Senate and SGA is a plus, Wanjuri encourages all students who are interested to run for a seat.
"If you've never had any experience in SGA, don't be scared, don't worry — there's an open door and I'll explain everything to you about how you can get involved," Wanjuri said.
For those interested in running for a seat, Theiss advised students to educate themselves and work hard.
"My advice is to look up the election statutes early and make sure you understand them," Theiss said. "My biggest piece of advice is to work hard while you're getting votes and throughout your term once you're elected."
He recommended students do their due diligence to better understand what they can and cannot do. He also advised reading Title III, which is the statute that explains the responsibilities of senators.
But above all else, Wanjuri encouraged students to vote.
"You want to make sure that we have responsible student leaders and they're servant leaders, leading for the student body and not just for their own initiatives," Wanjuri said.
Theiss encouraged students to vote as he feels the senatorial race is just as important as the presidential race.
"I think the senator race is immensely important. We handle a lot of different things that are important," Theiss said. "It's so important because these are the people who are representing the student body."