March 16, 2001

S.A. Pledges to Reform Election Process

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The Student Assembly (S.A.) Elections Committee declared their final decision on elections challenges at yesterday’s meeting, provoking widespread debate among Assembly members.

“Tom Leung, who came in second in the engineering race, still isn’t finalized,” said David Mahon ’01, student-elected trustee and director of elections, at the start of yesterday’s meeting.

Before the S.A. meeting began, the Elections Committee had been discussing a charge in an elections challenge that Thomas Leung ’02 did not report all his campaign costs. The charge reportedly stated that Tsee Yung Lee ’02, a member of Leung’s campaign, was distributing copies of Turn Left and The Observer newspapers, and Leung did not count the value of the papers as part of his campaign expenses, according to Karlos Johnson ’02, College of Engineering representative and an alternate member of the Elections Committee.

Because the elections results had to be finalized yesterday, the S.A. meeting took a five minute recess so the Elections Committee could finish their deliberations.

Mahon had conducted an investigation of the charge, and found that Lee had indeed distributed the newspapers, without Leung declaring the cost.

“By a majority decision [2-1], we decided to add 20 extra dollars to Tom Leung’s campaign,” Mahon announced when the S.A. reconvened after the recess.

Johnson later added that the number of copies claimed to be distributed, “extremely conveniently put them right under the budget limit,” which is $50.

If the cost of the newspapers had put Leung over budget, “He would’ve been automatically disqualified” from the race, Mahon said.

The question debated by the Elections Committee yesterday was “should he be punished for originally not claiming [the cost of the papers],” Mahon added.

“I ran a completely clean and honest campaign,” Leung said. “I actually made it a point to be as frugal and careful with money spending as possible,” he added.

Half way into the meeting, Michael Brown ’02, undesignated at-large representative motioned to disapprove of the Election Committee’s decision about the engineering seat.

“I know it’s symbolic,” he said, noting that a disapproval would not change the outcome. “[But] it could be a foundation on which we build [a better elections process],” he added.

Michael Bronstein ’02, vice president public relations and undesignated at-large representative objected to the motion, saying that to disapprove of the Election Committee’s decision seemed to undermine the S.A.’s confidence in its committee system. He added that the committees this year have demonstrated “expertise” in their areas.

“We’re not saying we dismiss the committee or anything like that,” said Dan Orcutt ’03, College of Arts and Sciences representative “I think that if this election’s flawed then we should address this election,” as well as future elections, he added.

Johnson argued that the decision was made without giving the issue proper attention.

“That’s not the way we should address issues — by people meeting for five minutes to discuss an issue is not the way to do it,” Johnson said.

“I think this is an appeal to campus politics and the way [it] will be run in the future,” Brown added.

Orcutt added that if the Assembly is not chosen properly and fairly, it cannot run properly and fairly.

Bronstein disagreed again with Brown’s motion, saying that a more productive way to address elections would be to have been to charge a committee with reviewing the elections rules.

Mahon, putting on his hat as director or elections, defended his committee.

“Look, I’m from Florida, and I want fair elections,” he said. “There’s nothing more important than having a valid assembly.”

The Assembly voted on the motion to disapprove of the Election Committee’s decision to approve Thomas Leung as the second engineering representative. The motioned failed, 9-4.

In his concluding remarks, Brown said that “there is no greater indignity, in the face of injustice, than our silence as a body of the Assembly. Today, our silence is the only thing that resonates through the Memorial Room.”

In another contested issue yesterday, Kira Moriah ’03, vice president finance and College of Arts and Sciences representative presented additional revisions to the Student Activity Fee (SAF) setting process. One specific revision under debate regards attendance during voting.

This change would eliminate the ability of a dissenting minority in the S.A. to break quorum and delay a vote in order to protect their opinions, which happened last year when a few Republican S.A. members walked out repeatedly during voting, resulting in too few members present to vote.

“Someday, somebody else could be in the majority,” Bronstein said. “It’s very important for minority [concerns] to be protected, so they are not subjected to the whim of the majority.”

Moriah commented on the difference between a filibuster in the United States Senate and breaking quorum in the S.A.

“[It] considerably inconveniences a lot of students” in attendance in the meetings as part of the by-line funding process, Moriah said. Also, there is a set date by which the decisions for funding must be made.

Sixteen members out of 24 were present at yesterday’s meeting, giving the Assembly enough for quorum. S.A. President Uzo Asonye ’02 announced at the beginning of the meeting that James Lamb ’03, undesignated at-large representative, had resigned from his position.

The reasons for Lamb’s resignation are unknown, and Lamb could not be reached for comment.

“We never really asked why [he resigned],” Bronstein said. “Typically, when we get letters of resignation, we don’t really ask about it. We just fill the position,” he added.

“He just handed his letters in. That was it,” Bronstein said. “He was a very strong advocate on the S.A. It’s a loss.”

Noah Doyle ’03, the “highest-ranking vote-getter who isn’t already on the Assembly” will be offered the position after spring break, according to Bronstein.

Archived article by Heather Schroeder