Senate proposes referendum guidelines

Student Senate is working on establishing a referendum voter ineligibility policy following a pair of snared elections this fall and last spring.

The bill, introduced at Senate’s final meeting of the semester Monday, acknowledges “Student Senate has had problems with procedure following referendums in the past.” The bill also states that adding an article concerning referenda to Senate’s bylaws will “help legitimize future referendums, and help solve disputes or problems that may arise.”

The proposed addition to the bylaws will provide Senate with acceptable percentages of voter ineligibility. According to a rough draft of the proposed article, Senate may choose to keep a referendum’s results if 2.5 percent or fewer of the votes cast are illegitimate.

But Sen. Abou Amara, one of the members who introduced the bill this week, acknowledged at Monday’s meeting the article has several errors and said he expects some corrections to be made.

The proposed article currently states that “in the case that 2.5 percent or more of the total votes were cast by ineligible voters . the referendum will automatically be deemed illegitimate and void.”

Amara and Senate Parliamentarian Zachary Boldon said that number likely will be changed to 2.6 percent to allow for 2.5 percent to remain an acceptable percentage. Boldon, however, said that change isn’t guaranteed and that other alterations could be made instead.

The proposed article, which won’t be voted on until after winter break, was introduced less than three weeks after Senate’s “Environmental Responsibility Account” referendum was snared by a faulty e-mail list.

That referendum, which sought to raise students’ semester fees by $10 to fund environmental initiatives, had to be extended by a day after an estimated 1,900 students were initially unable to vote. Alumni were also apparently able to vote in that referendum, but their votes were later taken away. Senate debated afterward about holding a revote but decided against it.

Amara said the proposed changes to the bylaws are also in response to last year’s Senate presidential election, which he said was tripped up by a faulty e-mail list as well.

“From what I can remember,” he said, “there was a certain period of time in which certain people weren’t able to vote.”

Those problems last year, Amara said, prompted Senate to review its voting bylaws, which is when he said senators realized there were no clear guidelines for dealing with referenda.

He added the proposed guidelines will allow Senate to “have rules that are agreed upon, so that that way there won’t be any
controversy.”

“We want to have a procedure in place, more than anything,” he added, “to uphold the system in which we conduct these referendums.”