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The Team Behind The Howard University Spring Elections

Campus journalists reveal the behind-the-scenes of the 2024 election season.

A graphic depicting the members of the Elections Commission. Courtesy of the Elections Commission.

Each spring, student general elections are held at Howard University, where candidates showcase their creativity with unique campaigns and use a triage of community engagement, food and posters to promote themselves as the best for the role. Behind the scenes, a team of students called the Elections Commission makes this possible.

The Elections Commission is a team of eight students in charge of managing around 240 candidates. Their job is to ensure that the elections are fair, inclusive and run smoothly.

Student elections are held twice a year, but the spring elections, which will be held on March 28 this year, are often busier because every general position is up for grabs, such as HUSA president, HUSA senator, UGSA representatives and Student Council presidents for individual schools and colleges. 

Fall elections are considered special and fill vacated positions from the year before. All positions that are eligible for election serve one-year terms.

To promote effective communication between a large number of applicants and the commission team, changes in the application process were made over winter break. Hassana Balde, the associate commissioner, said that the team clarified ambiguity within the code regarding giveaways, runoff elections and other candidate processes that were commonly asked about. 

“Last year, candidates had to email their submissions and the commission would get back to them,” Balde said. “Now, we use Google Forms for proposals and graphics, and that has made it a lot easier for us to track and communicate with candidates in a timely manner.”

Kelsey Rainey, the elections commissioner, said the spring elections are often more hectic for the team. Due to the number of candidates, they often start planning immediately after the start of the new year. 

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“You have to plan speakouts and crossfires, make spreadsheets, figure [out] how you’re going to stay on top of all the emails you’re going to be sent and how you’re going to keep track of all the people running and make sure that they’re abiding by the code,” Rainey said. 

“You have to go through contracts to make sure the voter system is together and that the election party results are together,” she said. “It calls for a lot—I think what people kind of don’t always see or understand is that the people on my team are students as well.” 

However, not all of the implemented changes have been smooth sailing. Some candidates expressed dissatisfaction with the election process and the communication between the commission and candidates.

Mr. and Miss Howard candidates said they faced negative experiences in their candidacy process.

“My experience with the commission has been a solid 5 out of 10. I think they were overwhelmed with the influx of applications, and it’s just been downhill from there,” a candidate who requested to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from the commission said. “There isn’t a lot of information being relayed, and there isn’t a lot of guidance. Everything is a lot more secretive and independent.”

Mr. Howard candidate Da’Quan Cooney, a sophomore musical theater major from Atlanta, has a different outlook. 

“We do have to be mindful that new systems are being put in place, and whether they are effective or ineffective, we have to be grateful to the elections commission and assure that we give them grace for acclimating to this new system they’ve set for us,” Cooney said.

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Balde said the team is doing everything to ensure that candidates have the information they need.

“I can understand why that would be a feeling that people have, especially as an underclassman who might be new to Howard elections,” Balde said. “I will say that we as a commission have made it a priority to be not only transparent but organized when it comes to the way that we relay information.”

“Everything is on our Linktree and the Elections code, and we really encourage candidates to look at it for a one-stop shop on how they should run their election,” she said. “If candidates are still confused, our office hours are a time where anyone can come ask us questions, and we’re more than happy to answer them.”

To cast their vote, students must log into Bisonweb on Election Day, select “Student Services” and “Student Elections.” Once votes are submitted, they will be sent to a third-party system called Election Buddy, where they will be counted and the results will be released. 

Since the team has no control over the data after it is sent off, they will have to double and triple-check that names are spelled correctly, correct pronouns are used and everything is running according to plan.

The Elections Commission office is on the second floor of the Armour J. Blackburn University Center. Their Linktree can be found in the bio of their Instagram page.

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Copy edited by Jalyn Lovelady

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