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Changes to election rules highlight senate meeting

After the controversy surrounding last year’s Student Government presidential election procedures, a group of senators decided to propose an amendment to revise legislation governing election rules. In a nearly unanimous vote, the senate approved the revisions Tuesday night.

Last year’s elections were called into question after numerous grievances were filed to the Election Rules Committee claiming certain tickets campaigned unfairly. Following many resignations and weeks of debate, Student Affairs stepped in and declared Frank Harrison and Faran Abbasi winners of the election.

Many senators like, senate Pro-tempore Nathan Davison, welcomed the decision to revise the amendment.

“This seems to be a great direction in terms of our student body elections,” Davison said.

While many senators were excited for the changes, others felt there were additional issues that needed to be addressed.

The most heavily debated topic of the evening was a provision allowing each presidential ticket to spend up to $5,000 on its campaign. Many senators spoke out against this, claiming it would deter students from entering future election races for fear of not having enough money to fund a campaign. Other arguments were that the raise was too large, and should only be raised to $3,000.

Putting a cap on funding for each campaign at $3,000 would constitute a 66 percent increase from last year.

According to Sen. Chirag Vijapura, in the past, each ticket was permitted to use $1,800 toward its campaign fund.

Arguments from the opposing side offered the price of running a full-page color ad in the Oracle, more than $900. Some senators said the $5,000 cap could be reduced later on.

“It’s easier to add more money than subtract,” Sen. Mark Villa said. “I think a 66 percent increase is plenty.”

The senate eventually voted in favor of changing the proposed $5,000 fundraising cap to $3,000 per campaign ticket.

Another predominant change students can expect next campaign season is the termination of an official campaign staff for each ticket. Under the newly amended Title VII, any student willing to support a candidate may do so without his or her ticket receiving point violations.

Previously, a ticket needed a set list of campaigners approved by the Election Rules Committee, and only those few students would be allowed to wear and promote campaign material. Students and outsiders found promoting a ticket not on the designated list could face grievances to be filed with the ERC. Further disregard for the rules would cause their ticket to be assessed points. Any ticket assessed 10 or more points can be disqualified from the election.

This issue came under question last year when Harrison, was assessed points after the ERC received a grievance accusing his grandparents of campaigning for his ticket in the Library. His campaign received four points, two for allowing non-designated campaigners to promote his ticket and another two for campaigning in the Library, which is a campaign-restricted zone.

According to the amendment, any student found violating campaign rules can have a grievance filed against him or her with the ERC, which then can turn the student over to Student Judicial Services.

Other changes in effect include adding a new staff member to the ERC who would be responsible for marketing the election to the student body, as well as the addition of allowing members of SG to hold paid positions on the ERC. The title also includes an amendment that allowing SG to place 10 extra polling stations on campus to promote a higher voter turnout.

Other highlights from the meeting included the election of sen. Jason Taylor to the Agency Review Board. ARB operates as a liaison between SG and the four main departments it runs: Safe Team, WBUL, the Student Resource Agency and SG Computer Services. Taylor was also named senator of the month for September.

Senate also confirmed Alex Bell as the Director of Department of Voter Registration.