After several revisions, five readings and a Student Court case, the Student Association executive board passed a series of changes to the Undergraduate SA Elections Committee guidelines Wednesday night.
The proposals, presented by sophomore USAEC chair Tom Buneo, received a 6-0-1 vote that will put the new guidelines into effect for this spring's election cycle.
The new guidelines come partly as a response to last year's contentious elections in which members of both parties accused one another of violating the agreed-upon election guidelines. Many felt that the allegations were based on an unreasonably strict application of the USAEC guidelines and not within the spirit of the election.
Much of the discussion raised over the proposed readings dwelled on the flexibility of the guidelines to adapt to the limitless variety of situations that could potentially come up during an election cycle. Though Buneo stressed that his committee would evaluate alleged infractions with full consideration and sympathy to the circumstances of the case, some expressed discomfort with the phrasing of passages, which in their opinion failed to offer concessions for unintended violations of the rules.
Nevertheless, the new guidelines include provisions that will increase disclosure about pre-existing relationships between candidates and members of the SA executive board and its standing committees. They also require candidates to sign conflict of interest forms, disallow the use of a computer by candidates during the voting period, disallow any active campaigning within 50 feet of specified voting stations during the voting period and other provisions that update and clarify the guidelines.
The new version of the guidelines also includes extensive provisions for candidates who are studying abroad or participating in a full-time internship experience such as student teaching. Although these students have always been permitted to run for office, the new rules allow them to appoint a designee to speak on their behalf if they wish.
"I'm glad that all of the amendments that were suggested were made," said junior Mathé Kamsutchom, SA director of public relations, during Wednesday night's meeting. Potentially facing yet another stalemate, Buneo attended an SA executive board meeting on Sunday to work on creating a document that would pass.
Though Buneo said that what was passed was "not the exact document the committee was looking for," he said that the now-official version represents "the best option at this current juncture."
"The actions of certain members of the SA committee have been in their own interest and not in the interest of the Student Association or the student body," Buneo said, noting persistent objections to the reading. "Several members purposely used their own influence against the guidelines and, in one case, did not read the guidelines before voting them down."
Acknowledging the fact that election controversies can dishearten candidates and the student body in general, Buneo advised prospective candidates to "be civil towards each other, look at the examples of the past and what we can bring to students for the future."
Interest meetings for students interested in running for positions on the SA executive committee or as class officers will be held on Feb. 24 and 25.