ASUO Student Senate appoints two new Elections Board Commissioners
ASUO Student Senate voted unanimously to appoint two new ASUO Elections Board Commissioners on Feb. 28.
Ram Sharma and Abbie Tornquist are the two new commissioners, and both are University of Oregon students who have not worked within ASUO before but who are eager to learn the position.
What does the ASUO Elections Board do?
The Elections Board is responsible for publicizing election rules and procedures. This is an especially important job because according to a 2017 Emerald survey, eighty-three percent of the student body do not feel well-informed about what ASUO does.
The ASUO Elections Board is composed of five members, according to the Green Tape Notebook, the ASUO’s rulebook for governing. The Elections Board hears requests for clarifications and complaints of election rule violations, and the board has to rule on those requests and complaints within 48 hours of receiving them. The Constitution Court is ASUO’s judicial branch, and it has the final say on decisions made by the Elections Board.
The ASUO President appoints the ASUO Elections Board Chair, and ASUO President Amy Schenk appointed Casey Daggett to the position this academic year. Daggett appoints four members to the Elections Board at least seven weeks before the ASUO elections each year. All members on the Elections Board must be confirmed by a simple majority of the Senate.
Who is Ram Sharma?
Sharma is a sophomore studying political science, and he’s a big-time Kings fan from Sacramento, California. A basketball and football fan, Sharma remembered his first time touring the UO and walking on “the little bridge” that leads to Autzen Stadium — the Dave and Lynn Frohnmayer Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge. He was struck by the beauty of campus and its surrounding area, which is one of the reasons he decided to attend the UO.
Sharma also said that he’s ready to get to work as a new Elections Board commissioner.
“One of the biggest reasons why I wanted to be a part of the Elections Board is to be able to be a buffer to get rid of bias,” Sharma said. “To make sure that the elections are fair, and to make sure that everyone’s voices are heard — regardless of gender, culture, race or anything like that.”
As Brothers Coordinator of the UO’s Muslim Student Association, Sharma recruits males who follow Islam — who are considered “Brothers” — and organizes events specifically for male members. Sharma was informed of the position by ASUO senator Mohammed Zaiden, the MSA’s Event Coordinator, who recommended that Sharma apply.
“I just thought this would just be a great way to help UO students because a big thing for me is compassion to all UO students,” Sharma said.
When President Trump was elected, Sharma was motivated to become more involved in politics.
“Everyone thinks that you have to do it at a national level to make a difference,” Sharma said, “but they can start on campus.”
He was inspired to write a book to combat the misinformation the Trump administration is circulating. The book is titled “Politics and the Global Impact of Racism and Sexism,” and it “provides the facts in key issues of politics… so that you, the reader, can have the tools necessary to combat demagoguery and Fake News in all of its forms,” according to an online description on Lulu.com, an online self-publishing platform.
Sharma’s hopes for this year’s elections and what he wants to do as a commissioner
Sharma wants to interact more with minority organization such as the LGBTQA3 Alliance and the Black Student Union to learn about their grievances about elections, and Sharma says that this is especially important now, when “minorities are blamed for everyone’s problems,” mentioning when white nationalists came to UO campus last year.
Another one of his goals is to ensure that “the little things” about the relationship between students, student government and the administration are taken care of, such as responding to emails and grievances quickly. He wants to do this because he wants to show that ASUO actually cares and to mitigate the lack of trust between UO students, student government, and UO administration.
“I want to be able to bridge that gap between administration, student government and students so that we can be a real cohesive group of people and students,” Sharma said, “and work together and find common ground on the various issues that are going on on our campus and in this country.”
Sharma said that the current UO administration can do better, saying Schill’s op-ed piece in The New York Times, “The Misguided Student Crusade Against ‘Fascism,’” called students out.
“I don’t think a leader does that,” Sharma said. “if you’re getting criticized, you address it. You get to the problem. You talk to the students, and you do your best to adhere to their grievances, but you don’t do what he does, which is go on a nationally recognized, big-stage newspaper like that and just call us out.”
Who is Abbie Tornquist?
Abbie Tornquist is a well-spoken law student who earned two undergraduate degrees in English and Political Science at Oregon State University, and this is her first time working with ASUO.
“I know elections require people who are committed and hard working,” Tornquist said, “but I tend to, once I am doing something, make sure that it gets done and done well.”
At OSU, Tornquist mainly worked in student housing and dining and liked to support students in their day-to-day lives. Tornquist recalled that she was a lot shyer in her freshman year, and in the first few weeks of her freshman year, Tornquist’s RA saw that and invited her to an event at the recreation center. This moment inspired Tornquist to be an RA and have that same ability to help other people.
Tornquist does not enjoy politics, and she sees being a commissioner on the Elections Board as a “good chance to be a part of the bigger university.” The current ASUO Elections Board Chair, Casey Daggett, told Tornquist about the position, and that’s when Tornquist decided to apply.
“I don’t know anyone besides law students on campus,” Tornquist said, “so I can’t be particularly biased toward anybody or any particular group.”
Tornquist said that she does not know a lot about the current ASUO administration, but she hopes to learn more.
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