Editor's Note: This column represents the views of the writer and not that of the Daily Lobo.
This week thousands of undergraduate students at the University of New Mexico will have the chance to elect the next president and vice president of the Associated Students of UNM, with two candidates running for each position.
However, I’m not here to discuss any one of those candidates. Instead, I’ll be discussing a third candidate for both positions — their name is R.O.N.
R.O.N. is actually a popular candidate at many different universities and is a common feature in student union elections across the United Kingdom.
But R.O.N. is not a person; it is an acronym for Re-Open Nominations, and is included on ballots next to the names of the candidates.
The rules surrounding this unique policy are simple: Should R.O.N. place first in any election, all other nominees would be eliminated from the race and a new batch of nominees would run for the position. Essentially, a whole new election would be held.
While this raises questions about fairness to the other candidates, R.O.N’s real purpose is to ensure fairness to the voters. I have no doubt that most students have voted in an election, at any level, where they were not particularly pleased with any of the options. They might even wish they could eliminate the field and replace them with candidates they think will better represent them.
Including R.O.N. on the ballot in future elections would actually solve many issues facing the ASUNM election process.
It would lead to a higher voter turnout. It’s no secret that ASUNM elections can struggle to draw voters, with last semester’s senate election have the lowest number of votes in four years. ASUNM can also sometimes struggle to reach parts of the student population not already involved with the institution, another issue candidates have highlighted as a problem.
Some students, because they are not familiar with the candidates or don’t care for their stances, choose not to vote at all. R.O.N. provides the option of voicing your disapproval of all candidates, which is important whether or not R.O.N. comes first. This would lead to an increase in voter turnout, something every democratic institution ought to be dying for.
This election cycle has seen the candidates call for greater representation of the student body in ASUNM. The presidential candidates, Mohammad Assed and Adam Biederwolf, have both said they would like to see more non-Greek senators. With R.O.N., students can eliminate all candidates they feel are not representative enough.
Students are faced with few options to hold ASUNM to account. Sure, they can just vote for different candidates next election, but that doesn’t necessarily address whatever issues continue to affect student government. Having R.O.N. on a ballot would not be just another option — it would make ASUNM more democratic as a result.
Not to mention, its inclusion would breathe some fresh air into student government. One former student in the U.K. described how the ballot for R.O.N. would include pictures of some famous Rons next to it (Weasley, Swanson, etc.). Entire campaigns are formed around the slogan “Vote for R.O.N.,” such as one at York University.
In a video for the campaign, students point out how 75 percent of the electorate didn’t vote in their last student election. Over the past eight years, an average 92 percent of undergrads didn’t vote in ASUNM elections.
We can debate whether or not only eight percent of students voting is democratic, however, it’s obvious that it's less than ideal.
I’m not saying this current crop of candidates are unqualified and that an entirely new election needs to be held. In fact, I would say these candidates definitely have the experience needed for these positions. However, whose to say it will always be that way? Shouldn't students have a way of expressing their dissatisfaction with political candidates?
An option should be made available to vote for something new, to vote for a more democratic system, to vote for R.O.N.
Kyle Land is the editor-in-chief for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kyleoftheland.