GUSA Senate Passes Voting Reform Bill

The Georgetown University Student Association senate passed two resolutions Sunday pertaining to last semester’s referendum that sought to abolish the GUSA senate and replace it with an elected assembly primarily responsible for allocating club funding.

The first resolution, drafted by GUSA senator Jasmine Ouseph (SFS ’19) and GUSA senate speaker Richie Mullaney (COL ’18), clarified that GUSA bylaws concerning elections apply to referendum campaigns and established impartial voting stations run by the GUSA Election Commission.

The second resolution allows GUSA senator Scott Lowder (COL ’17) and Owen Hayes (SFS ’18), GUSA’s finance and appropriations committee chairman, to continue their  process of appealing the Constitutional Council’s enjoinment of the referendum results, which began in December.

Focusing on the results of December’s senate restructuring and club funding reform referendum, the first resolution addresses the aftermath of voting results that were initially withheld by the Constitutional Council following six members of the Vote No campaign filing complaints of electioneering on the evening of Dec. 1.

Six members of the Vote No campaign filed a complaint on the evening of Dec. 1 alleging GUSA violated its own bylaws by attempting to influence students to vote in favor of the referendum and by not properly presenting the amendment to the student body with enough time.

Passing unanimously with all 20 senators voting for the resolution to change the bylaws, the resolution addressed complaints that alleged GUSA’s violation of its own bylaws by attempting to sway students toward the referendum as well as by preventing students from having ample time with the proposed amendment’s points.

The restructuring referendum results were later determined invalid Jan. 20 on the grounds that GUSA violated its own constitution by not properly presenting the amendment to the student body at least two weeks prior to the referendum. The Constitutional Council found GUSA not guilty on all counts involving electioneering and improper campaigning.

The complaints originated with GUSA senators Ouseph, Isaac Liu (COL ’20) and Charles Hajjar (MSB ’20), GUSA Free Speech Policy Team chair D.J. Angelini (MSB ’17), GUSA Dining and Auxiliary Services Policy Team chair Mark Camilli (COL ’19) and Dylan Hughes (COL ’19), who is unaffiliated with GUSA.

In addition to filing his appeal, Lowder also said the first resolution helps clarify confusion from the referendum campaign.

“We can have official voting stations that are unbiased, nonpartisan and made clear that voting stations by any campaign would not be allowed,” Lowder said.

GUSA Senator Jack Pelose (COL ’19) said at the meeting this resolution addresses many causes of biased electioneering, including limited enforcement of existing rules regarding tabling.

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.

The second resolution that required for Lowder and Hayes to submit the appeal, however, passed on Sunday with a vote of 14 to two with four abstentions. GUSA president Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) and vice president Chris Fisk (COL ’17) chose not to appeal the Jan. 20 Constitutional Council decision.

According to Lowder, the Constitutional Council will consider the motion this week.

“In terms of the appeal, because the Constitutional Council ruled on an issue that was only brought up on the day of the hearing and not in the original complaint, it’s in the interest of all parties to completely litigate this issue and make sure we have a clear and concrete ruling moving forward,” Lowder said.

At Sunday’s meeting, Lowder also said the appeal, entitled a motion for reconsideration, is not intended to force another referendum on the restructuring of club funding.

“The larger issue is that looking for past Constitutional Council decisions are very hard to find and there’s not a lot of involvement,” Lowder said. “A more precise written explanation for why they did what they did would be better for all parties involved.”
GUSA Senator Isaac Liu (COL ’20) said he does not believe the Constitutional Council’s decision is worth appealing.

“It’s time to move beyond this issue and accept the Constitutional Council’s rule,” Liu said. “And I think we should think about what the general student body is going to think if this drags on.”

GUSA Senator Evan Farrara (COL ’19) said the appeal should be allowed as long as the Constitutional Council realizes that it is coming from an individual and not the senate as a whole.

“People are saying that if senator Lowder goes ahead with this appeal he is acting on behalf of the senate and I don’t think that’s true. Since he has as a student the right to appeal, he can do so,” Farrara said. “I don’t think his appeal is valid just because this Constitutional Council has the right to interpret the bylaws as they see fit. But I still think he has the right to appeal.”

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