Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Sunday, May 19, 2024 — Houston, TX

Silva says Senate approval not needed for second-round election ballot

By Anita Alem     4/15/15 10:12am

The Student Association did not vote to approve the ballot for the second-round elections conducted from March 23 to March 28. Former SA Parliamentarian Zach Birenbaum declined to comment; the position is currently unfilled. 

Director of Elections Austin Cao initially said the ballot was presented at the SA meeting on March 18, with March 23 set as the deadline for finalizing the ballot. The ballot consisted of the unopposed candidate for SA Secretary Brianna Singh. Cao said the SA made announcements at multiple SA meetings encouraging candidates and announced on its Facebook page when the ballot was released. According to Cao, the elections were also publicized on the SA website.

SA President Jazz Silva said the SA presented the ballot on March 18 but did not conduct a vote.

“We did not vote to approve the ballot because we interpreted that the constitution said we were not required to approve [it],” Silva said. “This election received less public attention than usual because it was an uncontested race in which quorum was not required.”

According to Silva, a Sid Richardson College junior, Section XII.B.4 of the constitution requires only that the Director of Elections present the ballot at Senate. 

This section of the constitution states: “The Director of Elections shall present the ballot for each election, including a list of all candidates for each position and the text of all initiatives and referenda approved in accordance with Article XI (Initiatives and Referenda), to the Student Senate at its last meeting before the election. After addressing any inaccuracies, the Senate may approve the ballot by a majority vote.”

Former Chair of the Committee on Constitutional Revisions Brian Baran said he does not recall any discussion of the ballot on March 18. The SA minutes for the meeting also do not include any discussion of the ballot.

“I therefore believe that [the discussion] did not occur,” Baran, a Duncan College senior, said.

Baran said a common-sense reading consistent with the spirit of the constitution indicates Senate approval on the ballot is necessary for a legitimate election. 

“If you look throughout the constitution, it’s clear that the language ‘may approve by’ along with a voting threshold... is used to specify the threshold needed to approve something, not to remove the need for approval,” Baran said. “The Senate can choose to approve it if it has enough votes to meet that requirement, or its other option — hence the ‘may’ — is to not approve it. And if Senate doesn’t approve the ballot, it’s by definition not approved and can’t be used in the election.”

Baran said the SA interpretation that Senate approval is not required is unreasonable considering the wording of the article and the title of the section of the constitution, “Approval of Ballot.”

“To get to the SA’s interpretation, you have to accept that the drafters of the constitution would have written this and intended that it mean that there’s two options: The Senate approves it and the election goes forward with that ballot, and the Senate does not approve it and the election goes forward nonetheless with that ballot,” Baran said.

Baran said he finds this to be indicative of a larger issue of a lack of transparency from the SA. “I don’t think that burying something on a website constitutes public announcement and I think it’s important, especially with elections, and on SA matters in general, for students to be informed,” Baran said. “Part of the way for students to be informed is for the SA to tell the student what it’s doing.”

More from The Rice Thresher

NEWS 5/6/24 4:28pm
Rice’s COVID class graduates amid nation-wide campus protests

Rice held its 111th commencement ceremony Saturday, May 4 at Rice Stadium. The class of 2024 walked through the Sallyport, which is currently closed amid ongoing construction of the academic quad, but was temporarily reopened for commencement. For the second year in a row, all undergraduate commencement events were condensed into one day — prior to 2023, ceremonies were typically spread out over a two-day span.

NEWS 5/4/24 2:40pm
Rice SJP ‘liberated zone’ ends, university removes artwork in ‘beautification efforts’

The “liberated zone” on Rice campus and associated events ended Friday, April 26, after four days of programming, according to the Rice Students for Justice in Palestine Instagram page. Unlike overnight encampments spreading at college campuses across the country, Rice SJP disassembled the “liberated zone” each night and returned the following morning. And in contrast to clashes and escalating police responses that have led to some 2,000 arrests from Los Angeles to Hanover, N.H., there were “no major incidents and no arrests” at Rice, according to President Reggie DesRoches.


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.