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ASUCI Senate Dismisses ASUCI Constitution To Nominate Whomever They Want To The Elections Commission

The ASUCI Senate dismissed the ASUCI Constitution to appoint recalled Senator Ryan Pavey as the 2020-2021 Elections Commissioner on Tuesday, May 26. The Constitution does not give the Senate the power to nominate for that position.

Social Science Senator Nicholas Ortiz authored legislation R55-82, or the 2020 Elections Commissioner and Deputy Appointment Act, which nominated Pavey as Elections Commissioner and Senators Gabriel Zanipatin, Daniel Palafox, Max Siddiqi and Derek Littlejohn as Deputy Elections Commissioners. Pavey, Zanipatin, Siddiqi and Littlejohn had all run under the Fund the Clubs slate for Senate positions in this quarter’s ASUCI elections, but lost.

The Constitution does not give the Senate the power to nominate people for the Elections Commission, they can “confirm by a ⅔ vote, or reject, nominations to the Elections Commission.” The Governance and Internal Policy Committee is the body responsible for nominating the Elections Commissioner and Deputy Elections Commissioner to the Senate. 

However, the Senate decided to instead act according to rules set in Robert’s Rules of Order and voted to discharge the Governance and Internal Policy Committee, which allowed the Senate to consider the legislation despite what is established in the Constitution. Twenty one Senators voted in favor of the discharge, almost all of which were recalled in the winter. Littlejohn is the only non-recalled senator who voted to discharge, he joined the Senate after the recall petitions closed yet always votes alongside the recalled senators.

“They [the Senate] did not care about the rules and wanted to do what they wanted to do. They were viewing us, the Executive Officers, as obstacles. Since the Executive Officers do not have a voice in Senate, we could not speak up when they were making these decisions,” ASUCI President Randy Yan said when asked about the Senate’s decision to discharge.

The Governance and Internal Policy Committee met the morning before the Senate passed Senator Pavey’s appointment because Senator Joshua Wolfe sent an email at 12:38 a.m. on May 26 to the members of the committee —  the Internal Student Advocate General, the members of the Senate Rules and Oversight Committee, all Executive Officers, the Elections Commissioner, two Deputy Elections Commissioner and the Judicial Board Chief Justice and Vice-Chief Justice — informing them that he and Senator Russel Matias were calling for a committee meeting at 11:20 a.m. that day, less than 12 hours away. 

External Vice President Dashay Richmond responded to the email saying that less than 12 hours is not enough “to prepare anyone for a meeting while also not coordinating with the Internal Student Advocate General [the committee Chair] or other members.” However, Wolfe responded that it was “constitutional” for Matias and Wolfe to hold that meeting “regardless of lack of time/preparation.” 

Photo provided by Randy Yan/Courtesy.

When the Governance and Internal Policy Committee meeting started, Senator Ortiz motioned to become chair of the meeting because Internal Student Advocate General Cheshtha Talwar was unable to attend. Ortiz then motioned to nominate Senator Pavey as the 2020-2021 Elections Commissioner.

“Basically, Nick [Senator Ortiz] made the motion, I believe Josh [Senator Wolfe] seconded and then I made the motion to adjourn and it was seconded by multiple Executives. According to Robert’s Rules, a motion to adjourn is incidental which means it takes precedence over any other motion, [which] means we vote on it first. So we voted to adjourn before we voted to nominate. The majority voted to adjourn so we adjourned before anyone was confirmed for nomination. This whole meeting was only 5 minutes,” Senator Ivan Fonseca, who attended the GICP meeting, said.

According to Wolfe’s email, the meeting was supposed to focus on the applications for Elections Commissioner and Deputy Elections Commissioners. However, no member of the Governance and Internal Policy Committee opened the applications. Current Elections Commissioner Gregory Torres told the New University that he found out two days before the Governance and Internal Policy Committee meeting that they had been opened.

“I didn’t know they [applications] were open until Sunday, when I woke up and I had two [submitted applications] in my inbox, but I didn’t open them, so I don’t know who opened them,” Torres said. “I closed it [the application] once I became aware it was opened. My position would be in charge of opening it, so I was unaware that everyone had opened it, so I closed it myself”

Torres said that he had planned on opening applications for the commission on week 9, but did not do it because someone else had already opened them without notifying him. Torres intended for the selection process to take two weeks, one for the applications to be submitted and one for interviews to take place.

“Since you must be knowing that it is our [the Office of the Student Advocate General’s] duty to ensure fairness and eliminate any cases of partiality and cronyism, hence this 2 week span was allotted to ensure the same. The [Office of the] Student Advocate General, in the past few turbulent months have reported on [ASUCI] members who have been indulging in unfair practices. And so, this 2 week span sends a message across the entire student body, that all measures to curb unfair practices will be taken and that we will do our best to maintain honesty in the conduct of the ASUCI,” Internal Student Advocate General Talwar said.

Although the Senate already passed a legislation that appointed the members of the 2020-2021 Elections Commission, Torres plans to re-open applications during week 10.

“I intend to release more [applications] this week [week 10] on direction from the Internal Student Advocate General who chairs the Governance and Internal Policy Committee, which is charged with conducting the search process,” Torres said.

Senate President Faith Chua told the New University that she was the one who opened applications on May 17 with a May 24 deadline, although she never sent a campuswide email informing the student body of the application, nor did she tell current Elections Commissioner Torres that she opened the applications.

“The Elections Commission application as well as many others that I have opened are on the ASUCI home page. I did not need to inform anyone that I would be opening them unless there is a line in the bylaws stating that I am required to,” Chua said.

Six people applied, five of which are current members of the Senate — Pavey, Zanipatin, Palafox, Siddiqi and Littlejohn. Chua did not say who the sixth applicant was.

Chua opened the Elections Commission application because Elections Commissioner Torres had not done it.

“Since he did not open the application and I knew that the process will take more time the longer I wait, I opened them myself so we [the Senate] didn’t have to look for the entire 2020-2021 team right before Finals Week,” Chua said.

The Constitution does not say who specifically is to open applications for the Elections Commission, nor when they should be opened. However, usually the Elections Commissioner of the ongoing school year opens applications to fill the following year’s Elections Commission under the direction of the Governance and Internal Policy Committee. 

The New University reached out to the 2018-2019 Elections Commissioner, Alan Dang, to inquire how he handled the application process. Dang said that he opened the applications around week 7 for a week, but did not conduct any interviews because he was told to submit his nomination based on the applications he received. 

“As with the Elections Commissioners preceding me, I prioritize candidates who have experience with the Elections Commission and, therefore, proficient proficient knowledge and understanding of the Elections Code. All candidates most likely have leadership experience but what I looked for was someone with experience on the Commission so they know what the entire Election Process, both behind the scenes and what the students see, entailed and how they can be prepared for it should they assume the position,” Dang said. 

None of the people in Senator Ortiz’s legislation who were appointed to the 2020-2021 Elections Commission have been part of the commission. During the May 26 senate meeting, Ortiz said that it was “the most logical standpoint” to give the Elections Commission positions to the five senators in his legislation because they would represent the students “fairly.” 

Ortiz told the New University that he declined to further comment because he had a “large amount of studying” to do. The New University also reached out to Senators Wolfe and Pavey, but they did not respond.

This is not the first time that the Senate appoints people who lost in the recent ASUCI elections to positions within ASUCI. The most recent appointments to the Judicial Board — Madison Craw, Heriberto Mendez and Ortiz — ran for positions in next year’s senate with the Fund the Clubs slate, but lost. They will now serve as Associate Justices for a maximum of two years. 

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