The Georgetown University Student Association Election Commission announced it would hold the results of Thursday’s referendum on replacing the senate with a new assembly early this morning, pending a review of alleged unconstitutionality at polling stations.
The Election Commission announced it would postpone the results in a tweet at 1:08 a.m. Friday after D.J. Angelini (MSB ’17), Mark Camilli (COL ’19), Charles Hajjar (MSB ’20), Dylan Hughes (COL ’19), Isaac Liu (COL ’20) and Jasmin Ouseph (SFS ’19) filed a complaint with the GUSA Constitutional Council alleging that polling locations hosted by GUSA may have attempted to influence votes in addition to electioneering.
GUSA Constitutional Council Justice Russell Wirth (COL ’19) said the council plans on holding a public hearing on the complaint. Wirth said the results will be held until the council adjudicates the matter.
Before the vote, The Hoya obtained an internal GUSA email sent to senators and executive members that encouraged supporters of GUSA restructuring to change their profile pictures to include an endorsement of the measure. Members of GUSA, including Senate Speaker Richie Mullaney (COL ’18), Chief of Staff Ari Goldstein (COL ’18) and Vice Speaker Cherie Vu (COL ’19), also led a social media campaign encouraging students to support the referendum.
Students campaigning against the referendum cited food offered at polling stations as bribes, an excessive amount of “‘yes” campaign posters on polling stations and the placement of certain polling stations outside the permitted tabling zones.
GUSA senators offered a pancake breakfast in Red Square and free Melties ice cream sandwiches for the first 100 students wearing stickers proving they voted. Funding for these and other get-out-the-vote efforts came from GUSA’s Sunny Days Fund, a fund set aside for GUSA to use at its discretion during the year.
GUSA spent a total of $602.18 consisting of $25 for the inflatable Jack the Bulldog, $99.99 for the pancake breakfast, $400 for Melties, $32.19 for “I voted” stickers and $45 for candy available at polling stations across campus, according to minutes from Tuesday’s Fin/App meeting obtained by The Hoya.
GUSA senators manned polling stations the day of the referendum located in Red Square, a hallway behind Sellinger Lounge in the Leavey Center, inside the HFSC and outside of Leo’s.
The university’s free speech and expression policy allows tabling only in designated areas, including public squares and certain locations outside of Lauinger Library, Henle Village, Darnall Hall and the Healey Family Student Center.
To be binding, the senate referendum needed to receive support from 25 percent of the student body, or approximately 1,683 votes.
GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) said she hopes the results are released promptly, despite the Council decision.
“We hope that these results come out as soon as possible. We believe that the student body ought to know how they voted. To our knowledge they will not be released tonight due to an external group that has asked the Constitutional Council to hold these results.”
“Vote No on GUSA Restructuring Campaign,” an online, student-organized group against the assembly wrote in a statement released on the decision to delay results from the petitioners who submitted the complaint.
“Today, excessive ‘Vote Yes’ flyers and campaign materials were on display at nearly all GUSA polling stations. Individuals were given stickers that could be exchanged for free ice cream sandwiches at the very same polling stations that were encouraging them to vote “yes”. This was biased, this was indirect solicitation and this was unlawful campaigning,” the statement read.
Ouseph said the polling stations were biased in favor of the “Vote Yes” campaign, whose members posted campaign materials on the booths.
“Earlier today I was informed that the polling stations had ‘Vote Yes’ material all over it. I asked members of senate leadership if that was OK and they said because GUSA endorsed it that the GUSA polling stations were allowed to do that. They said polling stations were fine, but they have to remain unbiased so this either means no campaign materials at all or an equal mix of vote yes and vote no,” Ouseph said.
GUSA Senate Speaker Richie Mullaney (COL ’18) said he is confident the results will be released and certified soon.
“We’re very confident that all the actions taken by GUSA on referendum day were in compliance with the Constitution and the bylaws. We did not break any rules,” Mullaney said. “So we’re looking forward to the Constitutional Council’s ruling and we’re looking forward to the results of this referendum being released to the public.”
Students voted on two measures, a referendum on whether to make campus smoke-free and another on the plans to reform the senate, on Thursday. According to the GUSA bylaws, the council must release the results of both referenda by Sunday unless the Constitutional Council intervenes.
Angelini said he was disappointed with GUSA’s handling of the electoral process.
“The framing of the policy itself and the question made it inaccessible to the average voter, being that they would have to read the entirety of two separate constitutions to even understand the complex nature of the amendment,” Angelini said. “What I saw today in the process of establishing and managing polling places was truly the most disheartening to me.”
Student Activities Commission Commissioner Ricardo Mondolfi (SFS ’19), who is also GUSA’s liaison to student organizations and was involved in drafting the restructuring proposal, said he does not believe any money spent by GUSA was biased toward a particular campaign.
“I think there were also accusations that GUSA spent money on stuff that happened today and even if it was, it wasn’t on campaign things,” Mondolfi said. “The free stuff was provided to any student that voted regardless of how they voted.”
Mondolfi said he does not believe GUSA get out the vote efforts were unconstitutional.
“I do not think anything that happened today was unconstitutional,” Mondolfi said. “Most of the rules that exist regulate presidential campaigns because they have specific wording for candidates and today was a referendum. The same thing happened in 2006 because this is a referendum and it does not include candidates; it is different.”
Hoya Staff Writer Christian Paz contributed reporting.
Correction: This article previously stated Ricardo Mondolfi (SFS ’19) was a GUSA Senator and SAC Chair; he is a SAC commissioner and GUSA’s liaison to student organizations.
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