Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

This year's controversial S.A. election between Dale Barbaria '19 and Varun Devatha '19 (pictured above at a S.A. meeting on April 12) prompted the reform.

May 8, 2018

Student Assembly Amends Election Rules After Tumultuous Race

Print More

After a tumultuous and controversial elections season — which featured the disqualification of the now-president-elect — the Student Assembly officially amended its election guidelines on Monday.

After failing to meet quorum during Friday’s special meeting, the Student Assembly voted via email to pass the amended guidelines. The motion passed 28-0-0.

Many of the changes made to the guidelines were a response to, what S.A. president Jung Won Kim ’18 described as, the “fiasco” that were the 2018 S.A. elections.

One of the proposed amendments to the guidelines gave the elections committee the power to interpret both an election’s rules and its intent. When an amendment was raised to eliminate both of these powers, both Kim and Travis Cabbell ’18, director of elections, pushed back.

“The elections committee has to be empowered, in some sense, to interpret the rules that they write every semester that you vote on,” Cabbell said.

“I think that because of what is happening in this election, there’s like an overreaction,” Kim added. “The elections committee should have the ability to interpret their own rules.”

The final, approved guidelines give the elections committee the authority to interpret the elections rules during a Challenge Review Hearing; however, the guidelines specify that the Judicial Codes Counselor is not beholden to this interpretation.

The new guidelines also mandate that “elections committee members may not sit on the executive board of an organization that endorses candidates in an S.A. election.” If a committee member does have a seat on the executive board, or has had a position during the same semester of the election, then that organization is no longer allowed endorse candidates, or the member must resign from the committee.

“Up until last year, that was the rule,” said Dale Barbaria ’19 current S.A. vice president of internal operations and incoming vice president of finance. “That created less worry about conflict of interest.”

The new rule was passed, in part, as a response to the required recusals during the Challenge Review Hearing for Varun Devatha ’19, S.A. executive vice president and president-elect.

“[The elections committee] wouldn’t have become a seven-person committee with no chair,” Barbaria said.

The new guidelines also provide a clearer appeals process.

In the revised elections rules, the disqualified candidate may request a review by the JCC if he or she believes the committee “failed to correctly follow or enforce these Elections Rules.”

Unlike before, the elections committee will have the ability to respond to “claims made by the challenged candidate to the JCC.” The new rule was passed, in part, due to Cabbell’s argument that the “JCC acts as if [the disqualified candidate’s claims are] fact.”

“Essentially, the candidate is accusing the elections committee of being biased,” said Gabe Kaufman ’18, S.A. vice president of finance. “And so, in this case, the elections committee is the defendant, and the candidate is the accuser.”

The new guidelines also clarify that the JCC has the “power to overturn the decision of the Elections committee.”

Another change to the guidelines is that candidates are now allowed to answer questions regarding their platform when petitioning.

“Petitioning [should] have a purpose,” Devatha said. “Where you’re able to discuss your ideas, where you’re able to develop a platform.”

During the meeting, some members raised concerns regarding the potential for abuse, and whether or not this change would effectively extend the campaign season. To circumvent these concerns, the S.A. amended the guidelines to prohibit “making speeches or statements to student organizations.”