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November 22, 2013

E&R rule changes fall one vote short

After two postponements, the vote to substantially revise Student Government’s Elections and Rules Committee (E&R) bylaws failed to pass in yesterday’s Assembly meeting. The proposed changes, which aim to create greater transparency though publicly accessible meetings and minutes, fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority required for changes to SG’s bylaws.

The SG Assembly delayed the vote first in October to give newly elected first-year representatives time to study the proposed changes, and then again in early November due to the meeting’s time constraints. SG took up the matter in response to a controversial election season last spring, when E&R was accused of bias in addressing multiple accusations of campaign rules violations.

“I think that people are just being cautious in how we proceed and it takes two-thirds of the assembly in order to change the bylaws,” said SG president and fourth-year Michael McCown. “So it’s not surprising that there are still disagreements that need to be worked out.”

A poor showing of just 19 committee members coupled with two no votes and four abstentions led to the near-miss of the proposal’s passing.

Two representatives, class of 2015 representative Aseal Tineh and Graduate Council chair and second-year M.B.A. candidate Josh Johnston (A.B. '04), voted against the changes, voicing concerns about the potential for personal attacks and the need for discretion when dealing with allegations of electoral rule violations.

Community and Government Liaison and second-year Tyler Kissinger defended the changes, stressing that the proposed ban on anonymous complaints would strengthen SG’s accountability.

“I am very supportive of public complaints,” he said. “I understand the concern about backlash, but my feeling is that a lot of what happened last year—the reason it got so intense—was because E&R was so closed off to the public.”

Other proposed changes involved the inclusion of at least one graduate school member on the five-person committee and a prohibition on early campaigning and promises of personal favors by candidates. An overhaul to the appeal process, whereby E&R decisions on a complaint may be challenged, would permit the person who appealed to be present while the SG Cabinet adjudicates on the E&R decision.

McCown said that a revised version of the new E&R bylaws would be introduced at the next Assembly meeting third week of winter quarter and was optimistic that it would ultimately pass.

“There’s really just this one sticking point: whether the meetings will be open or whether they will be closed. I think that what will end up happening is a compromise will be made around that or an amendment will be made, and we will proceed,” he said.

The next SG Assembly will be just three weeks before the new members of E&R will be chosen.

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