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Previously unenforced bylaw restricts candidates from running for both college and SA positions

By Emily Abdow     2/14/19 2:36pm

Director of Elections Morgan Gillis said this year he abided by a previously unenforced Student Association bylaw that prohibits individuals who run for President or Senator at their residential colleges from then running for elected executive positions in the Student Association. 

In the 2018 SA election, Grace Wickerson ran and won the Internal Vice President race after losing the race for Brown College President. In addition, Elan Friedland ran for SA Treasurer and then Lovett College Senator. In 2017, two out of three presidential candidates, Hannah Todd and Jake Nyquist, ran for SA President after losing races for president at their respective residential colleges. 

“If a candidate who fell under this rule had decided to run, I would not have included them in the ballot, since they would have been in violation of the bylaw,” Gillis, a senior, said in an email. “This may not seem like a big deal, but if the election is found to be in violation of the SA Constitution/Bylaws, it undermines the legitimacy of the election.” 

Wickerson, who is currently running for SA President, said had they known about the rule in 2018, they would have considered it when choosing which race to enter. 

“Personally, I was not made aware that I had violated this rule until the conversation started up this semester about changing the bylaws to change the rule,” Wickerson, a junior, said in an email. “I later talked with the elections committee from when I ran and apparently they knew about the violation but didn't enforce it because it was already a few weeks in to my campaign.”

Last year’s Director of Elections McKinzie Chambers said she found out about the bylaw rule after the ballot was finalized and voting had begun. Had she known before the ballot was finalized, she said Wickerson would not have been included in the race.

Maurice Frediere, who was serving as parliamentarian but had recused himself from involvement in elections to run for External Vice President, said if the rule had been enforced after the ballot’s approval, Wickerson could potentially have contested their removal before UCourt.

“Had this rule been enforced after the ballot was approved, anyone removed from contention would probably have a strong case to make in UCourt that they should remain in contention as it is the role of Senate to finalize the ballot on advice of the Parliamentarian and Director of Elections,” Frediere, a Duncan senior, said in an email. “Retroactive disqualification would have been a disservice to the candidates and the student body.”

Gillis said no candidate was disqualified as a result of this rule this year. 

However, Friedland said he was initially interested in running for the currently uncontested IVP position after running for Lovett College President and had considered submitting a change to the bylaws in order to run.

Friedland said he decided against introducing the amendment to the bylaw upon realizing many residential colleges were still having their elections. Thus, only individuals from certain colleges could run for both SA and college positions. 

“I think that the solution to [the bylaw] is having the colleges align their election timelines, which is actually a goal that many generations of college presidents have had, but logistical issues have often gotten in the way of actually doing this,” Friedland, a sophomore, said in an email. 

Parliamentarian Nick Jerge said synchronizing elections across the residential colleges is “a daunting prospect.” Jerge said the current bylaw could be refined through altering it so it does not apply to positions filled with a second-round or special election announced at least one week after the results of all president and senator elections are announced. 

“That way, all students could have two chances to be a voting member,” Jerge said.

Friedland said amending the bylaws is a change he will explore for future elections.

“I definitely am interested in pursuing this for future years though to make sure that we do everything we can to have competitive SA elections and have more students become involved in student government both college wide and campus wide,” Friedland said.

Eli Mensing, who ran for Baker College President and lost, said that although he ultimately has no intention to now run for SA president, he believes the bylaw rule is constricting.   

“People who run for college positions, even if they don’t win, are still the kind of people who we should want in the SA,” Mensing, a junior, said in an email. “I think we should leave it up to the general student body to make the decision if running for a college position first makes someone unqualified for SA office rather than the current bureaucratic nonsense we’re abiding by now.”

Wickerson said they support the bylaw due to the different timing of college elections. 

“I've tried to emphasize to the people who've talked to me about about the bylaw the potential for appointed positions and committee chairs if they want to stay involved in the SA,” Wickerson said.

This story previously stated two candidates who ran for both college vice president positions and IVP had violated the bylaw. However, the bylaw only applies to those running for multiple offices if those offices are College President, College Senator or SA Executive Committee Member.

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