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ASMSU approves budget allocation to encourage students to vote

October 5, 2018
From left to right, ASMSU President Katherine “Cookie” Rifiotis, Vice President for Academic Affairs Dylan Westrin and Vice President for Finance and Operations Dan Iancio listen during the General Assembly Meeting at the International Center on Sept. 20, 2018. Rifiotis is the spokesperson for MSU’s undergraduate students.
From left to right, ASMSU President Katherine “Cookie” Rifiotis, Vice President for Academic Affairs Dylan Westrin and Vice President for Finance and Operations Dan Iancio listen during the General Assembly Meeting at the International Center on Sept. 20, 2018. Rifiotis is the spokesperson for MSU’s undergraduate students. —
Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

The Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, held its General Assembly meeting for October Thursday night in the International Center. With the midterm elections approaching on Nov. 6, the focus of the meeting was on increasing a student voice in the election.

ASMSU passes bill to encourage students to vote

There was only one piece of legislation passed by the General Assembly, Bill No. 55-06, nicknamed “Party at the Polls,” to allocate $2,000 from the general budget to the Governmental Affairs Office.

This bill would be used to purchase food and other celebratory materials like balloons in an effort to improve the voter experience after the long lines experienced by student voters in the 2016 election. 

This money will be shared with MSUvote, an administration-sponsored body that encourages students to exercise their right to vote.

“We want to make sure that people have a pleasant voting experience, because if you vote once, you’re much more likely to vote again,” Vice President of Governmental Affairs Eli Pales said. 

In 2016, about 5,000 people voted on campus, which averages out to around 1,000 people per  five on-campus precincts. 

Pales said he estimates that around 4,000 people will at least attempt to vote in the general election on campus. 

The bill was initially proposed as a $1,000 allocation, but senior College of Music Representative and Policy Committee Chairman Isaiah Hawkins proposed doubling the amount and it eventually passed.

“I’m brainstorming, almost all the time, ways we can keep people at the polls for longer,” Hawkins said. 

A proposal to potentially allocate funds to improving the voter experience for students living and voting off-campus was brought up by Talyce Murray, the senior class council representative, but was rejected. 

The main reasoning for the rejection was that most off-campus voters are not students, and food cannot be refused to non-students. However, the objective of ASMSU is to improve the student experience, not the experience of residents of East Lansing.

“I completely agree that we also need to engage students off campus, but we do have to remember that our general fund money comes from taxes that we impose on our students,” Maysa Sitar, sophomore representative of the College of Communication Arts & Sciences and initial sponsor of the bill, said. “We can’t have it fund community members, as much as we want to.”

An idea to make Election Day a school holiday was also discussed at the General Assembly.

“There has been (a push),” Pales said. “There was talk about getting a resolution through to send out an email to professors encouraging them to reduce workloads on that day, but we did meet with Lyman Briggs and Social Science. There’s been pushback, because it’s just a really big deal to cancel classes.”

Presentations, updates given at meeting

Three presentations began the night’s meeting.

Rob Kent from the Office of Civil Rights came to update the General Assembly on the new direction that his office is taking, focusing on educating students about sexual assault from the Academic Orientation Program, or AOP, onwards. 

Rob McCurdy from MSU IT came to discuss the progress of his department, including the installation of Wi-Fi in every residence hall and the development of the Michigan State app.

According to McCurdy, the app will include features like CATA bus tracking by December.

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Aaron Stephens from the East Lansing City Council came to encourage students to get involved with City Council, particularly the issue of court consolidation.

Stephens said having less courts in the area could greatly inconvenience students who are subject to court summons. 

President Katherine “Cookie” Rifiotis closed the meeting by updating the General Assembly on the presidential search. 

Rifiotis is the only undergraduate member of the search committee, and therefore serves as a conduit between the student body and the committee.

“I just wanted to make sure that you’re encouraging your respective constituents to come to the student forums,” Rifiotis said, of the informal meetings she has hosted to encourage student participation in the committee. “They have been much more at ease and insightful than some of the input sessions that are very rigid.”

Editor's note: This story was updated at 1:34 p.m. on Oct. 6 to clarify Aaron Stephens' presentation at the ASMSU meeting. It was updated again at 1 p.m. Oct. 7 to clarify Eli Pales' statements.

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