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ASUCI Senate Passes New Election Rules Without Notifying The Elections Commission

The ASUCI Senate passed a legislation that changed the Elections Code on Feb. 18 without consulting with the Elections Commissioner. 

ASUCI Engineering Senator Bryce Lindsey drafted The 2020 Elections Code Revisions Act, or legislation R55-38, to make the code — which encompasses the rules that govern the ASUCI elections — “easy to follow and understand.” Lindsey presented the legislation on Feb. 18 and the Senate passed it the same day with 22 votes in support, one abstention and no votes against the legislation.

According to Elections Commissioner Gregory Torres, Lindsey did not notify him about changes being made to the Elections Code until Saturday, Feb. 15, when Lindsey emailed Torres to inform him that senators were “planning on doing some Elections Code reform.” In his email, Lindsey did not include the legislation.

“It seems intuitive and commonsensical that you would alert the person charged with enforcing a document that you will be drastically revising said document. Not even just one or four days in advance, but weeks, or months. No one made any effort to inform me that such legislation was being written or had been written and posted [to the Feb. 18 senate meeting agenda]. How was I to know to check the legislation and review it, if I wasn’t even made aware that it existed?,” Torres, who is in charge of organizing the elections, said.

The Elections Commission began planning the elections in Fall Quarter. According to Torres, he had already made all arrangements and room reservations for the elections in early Winter Quarter following the timeline established in the 2016-amended Elections Code — the ruling elections-related document until the passing of the new Elections Code, which moved the timeline dates and deadlines a week early.

“It’s not that difficult to make changes. All he [the Elections Commissioner] has to do is book new rooms, that’s the only change. I would say it’s not that much change,” Lindsey said when asked if introducing the legislation on week seven of Winter Quarter could make it difficult for the Elections Commission to change the arrangements to follow the new Elections Code’s timeline rather than that of the old Elections Code.

The New University contacted UCI Student Center and Events Service to confirm if the Elections Commissioner would be able to move his room reservations a week early. According to a Student Center worker, student organizations are currently reserving rooms for their respective Spring Quarter meetings, so although it is possible for the Commissioner to get rooms with similar capacities to those he reserved previously, it is not guaranteed because it depends on whether there would be rooms available the week before the original reservation.

“Currently, our [the Election Commission’s] plan is to not amend the timeline section because the new timeline would be different and we’re working with the old timeline,” Torres said.

Although the Senate meeting where the new Elections Code was passed took place on Tuesday, Feb. 18, the legislation became available online during the weekend prior to the meeting. According to Lindsey, Torres had several days to review it prior to the meeting, saying that “it’s only nine pages, it’s not a monumental document.”

“Even if the legislation was placed on the [ASUCI] website on Friday, the Internal Policy and Governance Committee — which is, according to the [ASUCI] Constitution, supposed to recommend changes to the Code to the Senate — had not met yet to approve those changes, so the legislation was still premature at this point,” said Torres.

The Senate dismantled the Internal Policy and Governance Committee, yet this change is not reflected in the ASUCI Constitution. The Senate is planning to change the Constitution, the legislation to do so was written by Lindsey.

The new Elections Code differs from the old Elections Code in that it does not contain an Amendment clause. The old Elections Code’s Amendment clause stated that “[a]ny amendments to the Election Code, which are to be applied to an upcoming election must be made prior to the publication of the Elections Packet. Any Amendments made subsequent to this date will not be binding until the next following elections cycle.” 

Torres released the Elections Packet — which is the website where students declare their candidacy — in the afternoon of Feb. 18, following the timeline established in the 2016 Elections Code, which was the ruling Elections document at the time and said that the Elections Packet “shall be available no later than Friday … of seventh week of Winter Quarter.” The Senate met in the evening of Feb. 18 to pass R55-38.

“The elections website is under the discretion of the elections commissioner, so once it’s launched, he [the Elections Commissioner] can’t really change anything from my understanding,” ASUCI President Randy Yan said.

According to ASUCI Senate President Faith Chua, the new Elections Code trumped over the 2016 Elections Code because the old one followed the old ASUCI By-Laws and not the new 2019 By-Laws — which were drafted by Lindsey, who has presented and seconded almost half of ASUCI’s 2019-2020 legislations, majority of which have been passed. 

However, Torres told the New University that he was given a different reason why his commission needed to adopt the new Elections Code. One of the senators, whose identity Torres could not reveal, informed him that the 2016 Election Code’s Amendment clause was open to interpretation.

“They [the Senate] are saying that it may have been available, but it hadn’t been publicized,” said Torres, who had not sent an email to the student population announcing the release of the Elections Packet on Feb. 18. “How do you interpret the word ‘Publicate’? Does it [the Elections Packet] simply have to be made available or does it have to be made available and publicized? Because I waited to publicize it [to send the email] because I wanted to make sure there were no problems, they [The Senate] are saying that because it hadn’t been publicized, they could still fully change it [the Elections Code].”

The new Elections Code legislation changed the elections timeline by a week, making elections take place on week two instead of week three of Spring Quarter and moving the deadline to declare candidacy from week 10 of Winter Quarter to week nine.

When asked if the timeline being moved a week early could discourage students from participating, ASUCI Humanities Senator Amanda Clark, who voted in support of the new Elections Code, said, “I do see how that could be a potential side effect, but I believe that the intention in doing this and the way I see it long term, it gives more time for everyone who’s running to kind of adjust to the position and it gives more time for that whole transitional phase. It’s unfortunate that this was revised so late in the game at this point, but in the long term, it’ll be a good thing.”

According to Torres, the Senate has not finished amending or reviewing the new Elections Code.

“It’s basically like limbo almost where we [the Elections Commission] don’t know which parts of which one [Election Code] we’re going to go with. So, we’re in a strange space,” Torres said.

Oriana Gonzalez is the 2019-2020 Editor-In-Chief. She can be reached at eic@newuniversity.org