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Source: The Wesleyan Argus
Date: January 27, 2004
Byline: By Laura Goldblatt

SBC revote raises constitutional questions

After an oversight on the part of the Election Committee and the Executive Committee of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), the WSA general assembly voted to void last semester’s Student Budget Committee election. Re-elections were postponed until February.

Though the decision to hold re-elections was made in light of a breach of election procedures outlined in the WSA Constitution, the use of unorthodox campaigning methods also spurred discussion among the Assembly members.

According to WSA President Sohana Punithakumar ’04, SBC elections traditionally are held at the end of the fall semester, with new and returning officers beginning their yearlong term at the beginning of the spring semester. The Election Committee originally conducted voting over a three-day period after Thanksgiving break this fall.

WSA Coordinator Sara Mirsky ’04 explained that after the elections began, the Election Committee and Executive Committee of the WSA realized that Article Eight, subsection C of the WSA Constitution, states that “[v]oting shall take place over a five day period.” After bringing the matter to the attention of the General Assembly, the members voted to terminate the election and to withhold the results by the authority of subsection F of the same article which asserts that “an entire election may be deemed invalid by a two-thirds vote of the entire pre-election WSA...” At the time of the vote, a consecutive five-day period didn’t remain in the semester and thus the new election is slated to begin Monday, February 2 and to conclude at 11:59 pm on Friday, February 5.

“I apologize for this oversight, but I am confident that the new election will be successful and fair,” Mirsky said.

Candidate Brittany Mitchell ’07, remained relatively unfazed by the change.

“I did a lot of postering and such for the initial vote and I’ll have to reprint them and put them back up, but I don’t think it’ll affect my campaign that much,” she said.

Benjamin Evar ’07, who is seeking re-election to the SBC, also felt that the change of plans hadn’t set him back very far.

Not all of the candidates were as unconcerned. Tian “Jerry” Ai ’06 said that much of his time has been wasted. Due to the decision to have a re-vote, among other things, the e-mails that he wrote last semester to friends asking for their support have had to be re-sent.

“If this didn’t happen, I’d be happier,” he said. “I just hope that it doesn’t happen in the future.”

In addition, according to WSA Treasurer Camille Zahniser ’04, one of the candidates gained access to e-mail list through the WSA not available to the general Wesleyan population in order to solicit votes. Though frowned upon, the WSA Constitution does not specifically inhibit such actions and thus there have been no repercussions for the candidate.

“[The event] was not a reason by itself to postpone the election because the Constitution is not officially codified,” she said.

Zahniser elaborated that in light of the incident, the WSA plans to re-codify and work on re-wording the Constitution throughout the course of the semester to make election rules more explicit, among other things.

Punithakumar also explained that the WSA had been planning a full review of the Constitution before the e-mail issue arose, and that the episode was just another item to consider in the review.

“Though there was a candidate who used an [unauthorized] e-mail list, I don’t think that it was done with malicious intent at all,” she said.

Candidates agreed that a re-working of the WSA Constitution was an important goal.

"I'm not sure who it’s okay to e-mail,” Ai said. “The election rules need to make that more clear so that this doesn’t happen again.”

Mitchell also felt that the dearth of information and contact between the WSA Election Committee and the candidates complicated matters. In addition to feeling uninformed about the status and reasons for the re-vote, Mitchell explained that after the election was annulled, rules previously unmentioned, such as regulations regarding where posters can be placed, were brought to the attention of the candidates.

“Initially they were very unclear about the rules,” she said. “I think that in the future they should do a better job of letting the candidates know what they can and cannot do.”

Evar, like Mitchell, thought that information on election procedures were difficult to find and understand.

"There should have been more information easily available about election procedures,” he said. “I can frankly say that the WSA Constitution as it stands now is a little murky.”

Mitchell suggested that as well as amending the WSA Constitution, in the future the Election Committee needs to be more forthcoming and explicit about campaigning rules.

Evar disagreed, claiming instead that so long as the rules are easy to find and specific, it should be the job of the candidates to inform themselves of election procedures. He proposed adding a link on the WSA website during elections that outlined the regulations.

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