April 12, 2016

As SG Elections Start Up, a Revised Set of Rules

After rule disputes during last year’s Student Government (SG) elections, any instances of complaints and negative campaigning in this year’s elections will be handled through a revised set of rules passed last week.

The Elections and Rules Committee (E&R) presented amendments to the General Assembly By-Laws and a new Election Code at last Tuesday’s College Council (CC) meeting and Monday’s Graduate Council Meeting. These legislative reforms were approved three days before the process for this year’s elections began with the release of candidacy petitions.

Second-year Max Freedman, Chairman of E&R, stated that the rules have in no way changed but the committee hopes that that these reforms will help clarify for candidates what is and is not acceptable in the election process.

“The process of looking into which of the Election Rules should be changed and which of the applicable documents should be amended began with a post-mortem assessment of last year’s election and how E&R handled or failed to adequately handle certain high level complaints that arose,” he said.

Last spring’s elections were marked by accusations of University policy violations in the hanging of a campaign poster in the dining hall, slate collusions, and the inappropriate use of school e-mails and Facebook to promote a specific slate.

The Open Minds Slate withdrew from last year’s election because of objections to election proceedings deemed to be noncompliant with SG regulations. In a Facebook post explaining its decision, the Slate stated “[O]ur team has become aware of and subject to private SG election proceedings that clearly fall outside of the purview of the SG Election By-laws, Code, and the Candidates’ Packet…we as individuals are unfortunately unable to bring public awareness to this issue while remaining in the race.”

A large part of the reforms included revisions to the Election Code to address this situation. Additional clauses regarding candidate conduct were inserted to Article III. These amendments prohibit unwarranted personal attacks that do not clearly highlight the candidate’s platform deficiencies and can be replaced by provable measures. Defamation, the alleging of provably false accusations, is strictly forbidden. 

Upon review, E&R members recognized that previous legislation violated Article II § 3, which prohibits the Assembly from writing legislative code governing standing committees. Standing committees exist year-to-year without any action by SG, including the Committee on Registered Student Organizations and several funding committees, and Articles II § 3 and X § 10 as they were written meant that the SG Constitution contradicted itself by giving the same power to both E&R and the Executive Committee. E&R worked to revise these inconsistencies in the documents from January through March.

“This was a glaring oversight,” said Freedman. “Either we’re the final judge or we’re not.”

In a separate change, Article IV § II of the Assembly By-Laws was edited to specifically state that members of E&R are to be chosen by confirmation of the Assembly by means of instant runoff voting. Instant runoff voting is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates in order of preference, the candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated, and the voters continue to vote until there is a final committee.

The stacking of the committee was previously a threat as the Assembly had the ability to collectively choose the E&R members and thereby influence the creation and enforcement of election rules. According to Freedman, the implementation of instant runoff voting will prevent stacking of E&R and ensures consensus picks as committee members.

The newly proposed amendment to the Assembly By-Laws, now Article IV § 14, states that all unenumerated election rules and procedures in the Assembly By-Laws and SG Constitution may be adopted and amended by E&R in an Election Code.

Freedman warned that would-be rule breakers will find a much more “agile” E&R this year.

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