Parties criticize pricey election

By Michael McFall

The victorious Focus Party spent roughly $2,000 more than the Spork Party during this year’s student government elections.

However, members from both parties think money should play a lesser role in the contest. As of the final financial disclosure deadline, the Focus Party was able to generate almost $9,900 in donations, while Spork raised $7,702. The two parties’ assembly candidates accounted for the major difference in their fundraising. Spork’s assembly candidates collected $1,540 throughout the election while their Focus counterparts gathered $3,600.

“That’s how we wanted to do it,” said Tim Vogeler, Spork’s campaign manager and accountant. “We didn’t want to ask people for money.”

He said although the party members could have easily raised an extra $2,000, they chose not to because they wanted to be responsible with funds and only raise as much as they needed. The difference in their party’s expenses did not have an effect on student votes, he said.

“We wanted to demonstrate a campaign could be run with less money,” Vogeler said.

The cost of an Associated Students of the University of Utah election discourages a lot of students from getting involved, Vogeler said. If more than 11 or 12 percent of the student population are going to get involved in the campaign process, there needs to be reform, he said.

The Spork Party isn’t alone in its view that elections shouldn’t carry a high price tag.

Focus Party members said their expenses grew higher than they anticipated when grievance fees were filed after their disclosures were due. The party was found guilty of four financial violations. Consequently, it had to spend more than its allotted $1,800 for party budget and was forced to pay $105 out of pocket. “I was very angry about that,” said Chase Winsor, Focus’ financial accountant.

Winsor said he would like to see the election cost less money for students.

The elections are designed so students would have to spend as little of their own money as possible, said Kariann Hibbard, Focus’ campaign manager. The expectation that students would have to pay expenses with their own money is against the spirit of the election, she said.

Andy Murphy, Focus’ defendant during grievance hearings, said he doesn’t see how ASUU can make students pay fines for an already costly election out of pocket, he said.

John Bowers, Spork’s vice-presidential candidate, also said he disapproves of how much money the elections cost students and their relatives, who comprise the majority of campaign contributors. The spending cap for each party is around $10,300, and many parties that move on past the primary election spend close to that amount.

Dave Martini, the ASUU elections registrar, said he doesn’t think the amount of money any one party spends has any effect on their chances in an election. However, the cost of running an ASUU election is a question that gets brought up every year, he said.

Two years ago, the amount of donations senate and assembly candidates are allowed to fundraise were lowered by $25 and $50, respectively. Whether or not the cap on election spending will be lowered again is up to next year’s elections registrar and attorney general, Martini said.

Hibbard said she would like to see the cost of an election lowered but not by too much.

“There would be loud protests if they lower it too much,” she said.

Patrick Reimherr and Jon Hayes, next year’s president and vice-president, said that election reform needs to take place.

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