An election is a big ordeal, even a Student Government one, and people may not think much about how it is run, how the rules are enforced and how votes are counted.
At Eastern Michigan University, that job is in the hands of Election Commissioner Terrill Oatman.
The purpose of the commissioner position overall is to make sure the election runs fairly, which consists of tasks such as creating an election timeline, updating a website with election information, hosting meetings with candidates, reading bylaws to candidates, investigating any election violations and a lot of paperwork.
Oatman got the position during the fall 2022 semester by being appointed by the president of Student Government, and then voted in by the Student Senate, he said.
Returning now as a sophomore after a break from EMU, Oatman served as a senator during his freshman year in 2020 when it was hard to get much done due to the pandemic. With more in-person engagement on campus, he knows Student Government can make more change and is glad to be a part of such in his new role.
"If [the senators] band together and really work for the students interests, we can get some work done," Oatman said. "We've got a good budget, we've got a good Senate, we've got great advisors and I think we can really get some stuff done if everyone puts their heads together."
Read more: Meet the candidates for EMU Student Government senators
On March 21, a debate was held in the Student Center auditorium with all of the senator candidates. Since there is about one senator for every 1,000 students at EMU, Oatman said that at the debate, he asked the question: "What makes you think you can represent 1000 people?"
"It threw everybody off because they didn't expect me to ask that question," Oatman said. "Although one is serving 1,000, we're doing this together."
Oatman believes that the senators can work together with all of their ideas to make change for students at EMU and is glad that everyone is back in person. But, he said it sucks that the faculty is still able to decide if they want to work from home or not.
"It is a huge issue that they brought up in the debate, and I was glad they did," Oatman said. "But if we put their heads together and really serve in their best interest and not just take the Senate seat just to say 'I'm a senator,' I think we can do some really, really good things here on campus."
The commissioner has already started coming up with some plans for next academic year if he is still holding the position, including helping encourage students to vote during local and state elections and further speaking engagements.
While Oatman was previously studying history and political science, he is now an aviation major, and is unsure if his future will hold a career in politics or not.
Read more: Meet EMU student government's 2023 candidates for president and vice president
Elections for Student Government president, vice president and senator positions begin on March 29 at 8 a.m. and end at 8 p.m. on March 30. University Communications will send an email out reminding students to vote. Ballots will be available online through students' my.emich accounts.
Oatman also hopes to have in-person voting available at the Student Center and Rec/IM.
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