The Student Assembly (S.A.) held their final meeting of the calendar year yesterday. They addressed several internal issues, including election rules and procedures.
Members first tackled a resolution to amend the elections calendar, specifically reviewing several options to extend the window for voters to choose their delegates.
Last year, the voting period lasted 24 hours. New proposals ranged from maintaining the status quo to extending the period to 48 hours over three days.
“I think the longer voter period will require more work on the part of the candidates, but it may also create more voter turnout,” said Leslie Barkemeyer ’03, student-elected trustee and S.A. director of elections.
Last year, voter turnout was around 24 percent, according to Barkemeyer, a significant increase from previous years due to the introduction of online voting.
Other members felt that the possibility of candidates campaigning for three days instead of one would be too taxing for candidates with other time commitments and classes to attend.
The S.A. reached a compromise that the voting window would last 34 hours over two days.
Two other amendments meant to reform the election process were also introduced. One concerned itself primarily with addressing the procedures of the S.A.’s elections committee.
Currently, if a challenge is registered following an election, a committee comprised only of graduating seniors from the Assembly reviews the challenge. This body makes a ruling on the challenge, and from there, it may be sent to the Office of the Ombudsman, which decides whether the election committee’s decision was in accordance with the election rules. However, the elections committee has the final say on such challenges.
The resolution proposed several alterations to this procedure, including having the entire S.A. consider the challenge after the review by the Ombudsman instead of the elections committee alone.
Last year, several challenges were made and denied by the elections committee. The issue went before the Office of the Ombudsman, which stated that it believed that there were problems with the committee’s decision and the situation warranted further investigation. However, the challenges returned to the elections committee, which again decided against them.
Steven Blake ’05, undesignated representative, said that this was the major reason he sponsored the resolution and called the “system underhanded at worst, and flawed at best.”
“I think this is the best election reform that this body has seen in some time,” said Ari Epstein ’04, agriculture and life sciences representative.
Several of his colleagues disagreed.
Barkemeyer said that this resolution would effectively make the S.A. a self-approving body, providing for the opportunity for the S.A. members to vote for their friends on the Assembly or even for themselves if there was a challenge.
The resolution also questioned the secrecy in which the elections committee conducts its meetings.
“There is absolutely nothing that the elections committee does that needs to be secret,” Blake said.
Other members countered that various pressures could be placed on committee members if the meetings were made public.
The resolution failed in a narrow vote, nine for the proposal and ten against. However, many more members were in agreement that election rules must be amended in some fashion in the future.
Archived article by Mackenzie Damon