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The New Constitution Will Make It Impossible To Recall The Senate, Don’t Vote For It

On Feb. 25, the ASUCI Senate passed Legislation R55-43, The 2020 Constitutional Reform Act, with 14 yays and four nays, meaning that it will be present on the 2020 elections ballot for adoption. By Mar. 7, petitions to recall the entire Senate for their shoddy impeachment of ASUCI President Randy Yan, refusal to put the Womxn’s Hub Resilience Referendum Fee Initiative on the 2020 elections ballot, and a litany of other offenses all reached their required signature count. While the process of impeaching the Senate has begun, their constitution threatens to be passed and mar the student body’s right to direct democracy and needs to be voted down.

Even with every recall petitions for the Senate fully signed, the recall of the Senate is being stalled by none other than the Senate themselves. When these petitions reached their required signature count, ASUCI Elections Commissioner Gregory Torres called for a special election. The Senate held up the process during Week 10 of winter quarter and have not acted on the legislation as per their constitutional duty. If the Senate has failed to abide by the current constitution, should the one they have custom-designed even be considered?

ASUCI Engineering Senator Bryce Lindsey, whose recall petition reached 113 signatures out of a needed 89, authored The 2020 Constitutional Reform Act. Lindsey’s influence arteries the ASUCI Senate, as he has authored or seconded 30 out of the 73 legislations for the 2019-2020 school year. On Mar. 11 the Office of the Student Advocate General found Lindsey guilty of misconduct with multiple charges including coercing and threatening senators to vote with them. 

With both a recall petition and multiple charges against the author of the revised constitution, the fact that R55-43 is even being placed on the ballot is questionable. Regardless of the voice behind R55-43, the legislation itself when compared to the current constitution looks like nothing more than a way for the Senate to ensure they are impossible to recall.

In order to be recalled by a petition from the student body under the current constitution, a petition requires, “Ten percent of the votes cast in the last regular election for that office, in the case of Executive Officers, At ­Large and Special Interest Senators, and the Student Advocate General,” or “25 percent of the votes cast in the last regular election for that office, in the case of School­ based Senators”

In order to be recalled by a petition from the student body under the new constitution, “All officers of ASUCI may be recalled by a properly signed petition often (10) percent of (students).”

The crucial difference here is that the new constitution requires 10% of the entire student body to sign a petition versus the current constitution requiring 10% of the voter turnout for that specific office. The current constitution’s reasoning makes sense, given that the whole of the student body voter turnout and participation can change wildly; voter turnout ranges from 10% to 30% typically and last year dropped to 8% .

Let’s look at an example. The petition to recall Humanities Senator Amanda Clark required 25% of the number of votes cast in the last election for her office as signatures. The number of signatures required ended up being 20, meaning that only 80 humanities majors out of approximately 1,300 voted for her, a voter turnout of 6.51%. 43 humanities majors signed the recall petition, more than half of the votes cast for Clark in the first place. In this case, the required signatures matched the voter turnout and participation numbers quite well. 

Now, let’s look at the new constitution’s recall method, which again, does not reflect voter turnout or participation numbers. So, 10% of the student body comes out to approximately 3,000 students. 

“Wait, there’s only approximately 1,300 humanities majors,” said no Senator while discussing R55-43 on the Senate floor.

Let’s continue. In order to have recalled Clark under the new constitution, a 14,900% increase in required signatures would have been needed. Please read that number aloud and consider what it means. In addition to requiring a 14,900% increase in votes, the new constitution requires more non-humanities majors to sign for the Humanities Senator’s impeachment than Humanities majors.

At best, Lindsey may have only thought of his own Engineering school of approximately 5,000 students when drafting R55-43, as a recall petition under the new constitution against him would require ⅗  of the engineering school to sign. 60% of students served by their Senator signing a recall petition may seem like a reasonable number, however it again does not factor in voter participation or turnout.

356 voters were cast for Lindsey in the last election, or 7.12% of the Engineering school population. This leads to 89 signatures being required on his own recall petition, on which he received 113. Even when considering one of the largest schools on campus which can fill a recall petition entirely on its own, reaching 10% of students signatures remains elusive; the recall of Lindsey under the new constitution would have required a 3,270.79% increase in required signatures.

In order to give the new constitution the most extreme benefit of the doubt, let’s use the every recall petition’s numbers and assume the following: because anyone can sign a recall petition for any Senator regardless of school, anyone who signed a recall petition for their senator also signed them for every senator. For schools with two or more Senators, we are only going to consider the highest signature count petition, given that otherwise there would be a double count of signers. 

The total number of signatures in favor of recalling the Senators would then be 2,614 — still shy of the 3,000 needed under the new constitution. While this number may seem fairly close, it actually still reflects some double-counts; anyone can sign a recall petition for the Freshman Senator, International Senator, and Transfer Senator. If we assume everyone who could have signed for all these recalls did and only take the highest single-petition signature count into consideration, the approximate total signer count is 1,222.

Even when the whole of the student body is seemingly against the Senate in its entirety, only 40% of the signatures that would have been needed to oust a Senator under the new constitution were met. Even if the student body could rile up enough support for the recall of the Senate, as they did with the petition to put the Womxn’s Hub Resilience Referendum Fee Initiative on the ballot, this energy may not exist in later years when the recall of one Senator is called for.

It is clear that no matter how much doubt you benefit the new constitution, there is no way to frame it as anything other than anti-democratic. It flagrantly ignores voter turnout and participation in its calculations of how recall petitions should be handled, making the recall of single senators in the future nearly impossible. 

The current constitution has proved itself during the recall of the entire Senate, as many of the petitions barely squeaked by their required signature count. Our current constitution is balanced in a way that makes uses of direct democracy directly reflect the level of voter participation at that moment in time. 

Separating the author from R55-43 still shows the legislation to be an antidemocratic bill. Rejoining the two, the antidemocratic measures in R55-43 were authored by a Senator who would later be himself recalled and found guilty of charges such as voter manipulation. 

A piece of legislation, let alone an entirely new constitution, that radically changes the way voter participation is counted, written by a Senator convicted of voter manipulation, and voted on by a Senate unwilling to abide by their constitutional duty to approve the special election timeline should in no way be adopted. While Chancellor Howard Gillman has the final say in adopting the constitution, we can assure it never reaches his desk in the first place by voting “no” on it during the Spring Elections.

Nicolas Perez is the 2019-2020 Opinion Co-Editor. He can be reached at opinion@newuniversity.org.