Board to hear final Elections Code revisions next week

Board to hear final Elections Code revisions next week

By Danielle Fox and Megan Trimble / The Pitt News Staff

The new Elections Code was front and center of the Student Government Board’s public meeting for the second time this month.

The Board turned down the vote for Elections Code revisions at Tuesday’s public meeting. Instead, the Board unanimously decided to vote on the issue next week. To do so, the Board struck down the code proposed last week.

The Board members have the final say on allocating the more than $2.3 million Student Activities Fund into which each undergraduate student pays $80 a semester. The Board allocates the money to Student Organization Resource Center-certified groups at the recommendation of the Allocations Committee.

The Elections Code is integral to Board operations, as Board and presidential candidates must campaign under its rules during the election cycle that begins Oct. 31. The elections chairman reviews all alleged violations of the code and brings them before his committee, which then votes to decide if the allegations merit a hearing. The committee then conducts the hearing and directs appeals to the judicial committee. 

Elections Chairman Aaron Gish and the committee he oversees have met Board resistance regarding code reform since last spring semester. 

On April 9, Gish initially proposed 100 code revisions, including grammatical and mechanical changes alongside more substantial changes. An attempt to remove the mention of slates from the code was chief among Gish’s changes. Slates include groups of two or three Board or presidential candidates who run together for the positions. A removal of the system would require students to run as individual candidates. 

The Board struck down this first proposal of the code in a unanimous vote April 16.

During a second proposal brought before the Board on Sept. 3, Gish and his committee proposed 40 code revisions, but did not remove slates from the code. The code aimed to eliminate the ability for students to merge two slates and run as a larger group, breaking from the megaslate system that allows six candidates to run and campaign together as sister slates. 

While sister slates are not a violation to the current code enforced by former Elections Chairwoman Annie Brown, the issue fell under her discretion as outlined in the code.

Among other changes, the second proposed code aimed to clarify the role of the campaign manager, set campaign spending limitations and address the number of endorsements a student organization can make.

The second proposal met resistance from the Board, which felt that the change to limit candidate endorsements to three Board member candidates and one presidential candidate would create confusion because students have the ability to vote for five Board member candidates and one president. The Board chose to table this motion for an official vote at last night’s meeting.

Gish withdrew this version of the code at last night’s meeting and proposed a third code proposal for the Board’s review.  

The third proposal, according to Gish, is identical to the second proposal except for four revisions: 

The maximum number of candidates that an individual or student organization can endorse is limited to five Board member candidates and one presidential candidate.

Campaign managers must be full-time, non-College of General Studies undergraduates of the University.

Campaign managers may not speak before the body of student organizations in place of the candidate they represent.

Any item less than $1 that is approved by the Elections Committee may be distributed to voters during the campaign.

Although the Board reviewed the third round of code revisions before Gish’s official proposal during the meeting, the Board struck down the possibility of the vote until next week.

Tabling is necessary for election code changes and resolutions, according to Gordon Louderback, president of the Board.

“The reason to table is to get other people’s feedback outside of SGB and get our own feedback,” he said.

Currently, the code does not explicitly regulate the number of candidates that a student group can endorse. Instead, the number is at the discretion of the elections chairman.

If passed, the endorsement system will align with the voting structure, allowing student organizations to endorse five Board members and one presidential candidate.

The current proposal stands as the last time a revision can be proposed and tabled for a vote before the Nov. 21 election. According to Section 101.03 of the Elections Code, the chairman cannot propose any revisions during the period beginning eight weeks before the election and lasting until its conclusion.

Although Board member Mike Nites voted against tabling the second proposal in the 6-2 decision last week, he chose to vote in favor of tabling the third proposal “to keep things moving along.”

“I decided to go with it anyway because this is our last opportunity to modify the code,” Nites said. “I think for one small change in the whole elections code, that’s not enough for me to revert back to last year’s code.”

Board member John Cordier also voted against tabling last week’s code because he did not think he knew enough about the topic to table it for a vote. He said that he felt more educated on the issue tonight and chose to vote in favor of tabling the code for an official vote next week.

Gish agreed that passing the current code was a joint goal of the Elections Committee and the Board, and said that he is, once again, “fairly confident” that the Board will pass the amended proposal next week.

“This was something that we were comfortable proposing,” he said. “So, I would say that I would be extremely surprised if it doesn’t pass.” 

Gish said that he was surprised that the endorsement section of the code took center stage in recent discussion of code proposals. He said he felt as though other changes, such as the definition of a campaign manager and setting more explicit guidelines, accomplished much more. 

“My goal was to create a code where I wouldn’t have to make as many decisions under my discretion as the chairman,” he said. 

Gish said that he understands the perspective of those “who saw [slate removal] as a positive change,” but also understood those who felt a change in the current system would cause “rapid changes, which could cause logistical problems” in the upcoming election. 

“One thing that is true about this code, that would not have ever been true about that [April 9] code, is that the past code had no real possibility of ever getting passed through both the Board and the [Elections] Committee,” he said. 

In other action

Board members shared their initiatives’ progress before the 30 gathered in Nordy’s Place of the William Pitt Union for the 47-minute meeting, held weekly at 8:45 p.m.

President of the Board Gordon Louderback introduced a resolution to switch from the current University operating system to Google applications for education. Louderback said that the new operating system would be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly. The board motioned in favor to table the resolution. 

Board member Amelia Brause reminded the audience about the Healthy U fair Oct. 2 and announced the How Healthy Are You? program, which will name one student organization as the healthiest group on campus in the spring.

Board member Sowmya Sanapala said the Board will participate in diversity training in order to handle cultural requests more efficiently.

Board member Michael Nites will meet with former Board candidate Lauren Barney to discuss final exams.

Board member Sarah Winston announced that SGB will meet with the Penn Hills High School student government Sept. 20.

Board member Thomas Jabro invited students to attend the food committee meeting at 1 p.m. Friday in room 548 of the William Pitt Union. Free food will be provided, and representatives from Sodexo will be on hand to speak with students.

Board member John Cordier said the traditions committee will meet tonight at 8 p.m. in room 848 of the William Pitt Union.

Board member C.J. Bonge is working on plans for a safety seminar,  including cooperation with Pitt police and campus groups to educate students about campus safety. Bonge also said he is discussing Panther Prints, the University yearbook, with various campus departments and the departments of other universities to devise an alternative to the yearbook.

Board member Dave Rosenthal announced he will not be in attendance during next week’s meeting, as he is required to attend Meet the Greeks.

Allocation justifications

Eye to Eye requested $809 for honorarium, airfare and lodging costs to bring a member of the national organization to run a training program. The Board approved the request in full in line with the Allocations recommendation. 

Finer Things Club requested $1,000 to partially cover costs to attend the symphony orchestra. The Board denied the request in full in line with the Allocations recommendation.

Bridges to Prosperity requested $1,410 to cover registration fees and transportation costs for six members to attend the group’s national conference in Tennessee. The Board approved $660 and denied $750 to send six delegates to a conference.

Panther Habitat for Humanity requested $897.04 for registration, lodging and ground transportation to cover costs for three members to attend the Youth Leadership Conference in Arlington, Va. The board approved the request in full in line with the Allocations recommendation.

The Board has allocated $10,261.90 from the Student Activities Fund so far this semester.