Run for Student Senate

Candidate Guide


Interested in running for Senate? We're excited too. Here's a quick rundown of the process.

Senate elections begin with an eight day nominations period. Email Senate to nominate people you think should run (including yourself). Senate will then confirm whether each nominated student is interested in running in the election.

After accepting a nomination, candidates can submit two candidate statements: one that will be linked to from the online ballot (maximum 300 words) and one that will be published in The Oberlin Review (maximum 150 words). Candidates are encouraged to seek endorsements, which will appear with your candidate statement (this does not count towards the 300 word limit).

Senate will e-mail a link to the online ballot to the student body. Voting is open for a minimum of five days and will stay open until 20 percent of the student body has voted.

Please remember: Student Senators are expected to commit a significant portion of their time to Senate and are compensated accordingly. Therefore, people who do not fulfill the responsibilities of serving on Senate face a series of sanctions, including removal from Senate. Please also read the Electoral Code of Ethics.

Responsibilities of Being a Senator

The responsibilities of senators will be to:

  • Serve as an officer.
  • Serve on a Faculty or Administrative Committee.
  • Serve on the General Faculty.
  • Serve on the College Faculty, if applicable. Senators from specifi c committees, as stated in the College Faculty by-laws, serve as members of the College Faculty.
  • Attend all Senate, faculty and administrative committee meetings, and working group meetings of which the senator is a member in accordance with the Senate attendance policy.
  • Perform publicity and communication with the student body.
  • Hold weekly office hours.
  • Contribute to the legislative work of Senate.
  • Failure to execute these duties is cause for removal, in accordance with Article II, section 10.

Senate Bylaws Governing Elections

Elections & Nominations

Any student regularly enrolled as a full-time Oberlin student may vote or run in a senate election. Eight Senators are elected at the beginning of the Fall semester and seven at the beginning of the Spring semester. The election task-force consists of any Senators not currently seeking re-election. The Senate chooses the dates for the election, allowing eight days for nominations before the election begins. The election lasts five days or until there is quorum (20% of the student body has voted), whichever is longer though no election may extend beyond the academic year. In addition, if by removal or resignation five seats on Senate become empty, a special vacancy-filling election is held until a quorum of 10% is met or for 5 days, whichever is longer.

Any student may nominate any Oberlin student, including oneself. Though anyone may be nominated, only Oberlin students who plan to attend for the term in question may accept their nomination and appear on the ballot. Though not encouraged, students may run in the Spring election before their graduation. Candidates may submit candidate statements of up to 150 words which will be published.

If a senator resigns or is removed from Senate and there are still two General Faculty meetings planned for that semester, Senate will offer the position to the candidate from that semester's elections who was next up in line, so long as that candidate received a minimum of ten votes in the election. The new senator shall serve until the completion of the term to which the new senator's immediate predecessor was elected.

The Senate can call elections to fill a vacancy with a majority vote. The Student Senate must call an election and open nominations within one week if more than three seats are vacant.


Both online and printed ballots must include the names of all candidates and a space for write-ins. One candidate is randomly selected to appear at the top of the list, and the rest follow in alphabetical order. Each student must include the student's ID number (T-number) and OCMR to validate the ballot. Ballots without ID numbers are not counted. This information should be prominently displayed on the ballot.

For elections with five or less open seats, students may vote for a maximum of the full number of open seats. For elections with six to seven open seats, students may vote for a maximum of five candidates. For elections with eight to ten open seats, students may vote for a maximum of six candidates. For elections with nine or more open seats, students may vote for a maximum of half the number of open seats, rounding up.

On-line balloting should be conducted if possible. The voting program should provide the names of all candidates, include an option to read the statements of all candidates, allow a voter to choose candidates, allow a voter to write in candidates, prevent voters from choosing more than the appropriate number of candidates, require an OCMR and T-number, invalidate duplicate ID numbers, but provide a list of all T-numbers duplicated and their OCMRs, and provide a means of comparing T-numbers and OCMRs to paper ballots.

Senate would like to include students who are studying abroad in elections and referenda. The Registrar's Office says, "We can select the academic leave students—each time senate has requested lists from me I always ask as to what the population should be because I have the ability to include or exclude specific populations. So, these students could be included; it just needs to be part of the request." One note: because we often run in short supply on OCMRs, not all students on academic leave have an OCMR.

The election task-force validates and tallies the ballots daily during the election period. Duplicate ballots or ballots with partial information are disqualified unless the voting student can be contacted to verify their vote. Election results are not released until all ballots have been tallied. Numerical data are released to the public.

Single Transferable Vote

The reform of the voting method to elect Student Senators was proposed by student petitions to be put in the Student Referendum in November 2007. Single Transferable Vote (STV) system received 62% support in the referendum. Following the result of the referendum, Student Senate passed a resolution to confirm the change of electoral system to STV in April 2008. Following the implementation process, STV (Droop Quota-Gregory Method) is used for the first time in this election.

STV is used by a number of highly respected universities across the country, including Harvard, Princeton, MIT, UC Berkeley and Vassar. In addition, STV is used in local elections in Cambridge, MA and Minneapolis; the American cities that have historically used STV include New York, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. Internationally, STV is used in elections for national legislatures in Ireland and Australia.

How to vote in an STV election

Voters rank candidates in order of preference; "1" for their first choice candidate, "2" for their second choice candidate, and so on. Voters can rank as many or as few candidates as they would like; voters are not obliged to rank all candidates. However, not ranking all candidates can lead to the loss of a portion of the vote. Ranking many candidates does not dilute the vote for the first preference candidate.

How votes are counted

The number of votes each candidates need to win ("quota") is determined by the formula, which is (number of votes/number of open seats+1)+1. For example, in the Student Senate election of Spring 2009, 991 votes were cast and there were 3 open seats; therefore, the quota would have been (991/4)+1=248.75.

Firstly in the counting process, all the first preference votes are counted. When a candidate gains more votes than the quota, ze is elected. The difference between the number of votes for the winning candidate and the quota is called surplus votes; the surplus votes will be transferred proportionately according to the each voter's second choices. The fraction of each vote, which equals to the transfer value, is transferred; the transfer value is (surplus votes/overall votes for the winning candidate). For example, if the quota is 200 votes and the top candidate wins 250 votes, the transfer value is (50/250)=0.2; therefore, 20% of each vote for that candidate is transferred to the next valid preference (a candidate who has not been already elected or eliminated) in each ballot. If more than one candidates meet the quota in the first count, the votes from the candidates with more votes are transferred first.

When all of the elected candidates' surplus votes are transferred, the candidate with the least number of votes is excluded, and the votes for hir are transferred to each voter's next valid preference. When a candidate gains a quota following the transfer of votes from an eliminated candidate and is elected, the same process of transfer of surplus votes is repeated. The above processes continue until all vacancies are filled. This counting procedure is used in order to minimise the number of wasted votes.

For more detailed description and an example of STV vote counting, please refer to the Electoral Reform Society.

Electoral Code of Ethics

This code must be sent to each nominee prior to the start of elections. The Code of Ethics prohibits a Senator from engaging in the following activities during an election:

  • Falsifying or misappropriating ballots.
  • Intentionally miscounting ballots or reporting incorrect numerical data to a member of the Election Task-Force, the public, or the press.
  • Releasing any numerical data to the public, the press, or any individual before the election is finalized.
  • Making public any disparaging comments that have been written on ballots about candidates.
  • Intentionally counting ballots that should have been disqualified.
  • Allowing the marking or handling of the ballots by any candidate.

These activities are grounds for removal of a Senator

Validation & Tallying of Ballots

Present Senators who are not candidates validate and tally the ballots daily during the election period. Duplicate ballots missing either an OCMR number or ID numbers are disqualified. Election results are not released until the ballots have been tallied.


Constitution Section 5: Elections

B. Candidates are encouraged to seek endorsements from student organizations, residence halls, or co-ops. Such endorsements are printed on the ballot along with the candidate's name, and on published candidate statements. Candidates may be endorsed by more than one organization. Organizations may endorse as many candidates as they see fit, and may use any criteria for making their endorsements. Each organization may determine (by the decision-making process set out in their charter) the procedures for endorsing candidates. The Senate must be informed of those procedures so that it can ensure the validity of endorsements. Organizations and endorsed candidates may place commitments on one another, but a senator, once elected, may not be removed by an endorsing organization.
Subpages (1): Working Groups