Absence of USAC election board chair leads to debates among council
The undergraduate student government has not appointed an election board chair although the election code bylaws call for the appointment before the first week of fall quarter. (Emma Skinner/Daily Bruin)
By Ryan Leou
Nov. 2, 2017 1:46 a.m.
The undergraduate student government has not appointed an election board chairperson even though its bylaws require it to have done so by now.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council bylaws state the council should appoint the election board chair before the first week of fall quarter. The USAC president makes the appointment, which the council must approve.
The election board chair is responsible for overseeing the spring USAC election and can propose amendments to the election code throughout the year. The council must approve amendments by a two-thirds vote.
The absence of a chairperson has led to debates between council members about whether the council still has the authority to amend the election code.
Council members voted at USAC’s Oct. 3 meeting to remove parts of an election code bylaw that allowed candidates running in student political groups called slates to raise an additional $200 for their slate to promote its entire pool of candidates. That amendment initially passed with a 9-2-2 vote. However, the Office of the Campus Counsel found USAC had violated its bylaws because it voted on a change to the election code without an election board chairperson in office.
Academic Affairs Commissioner Divya Sharma, who also sits on USAC’s Constitution Review Committee, said he thinks the delayed appointment of the election board chair should not prevent the council from being able to amend the election code.
“With any type of council, with a violation of bylaws, that doesn’t make the council immobile when it’s trying to change things,” he said.
USAC President Arielle Yael Mokhtarzadeh said in an email statement she intentionally chose not to appoint an election board chairperson by the deadline because she did not feel applicants were qualified enough to be neutral arbiters for divisive debates.
“We are choosing to prioritize identifying a candidate who can uphold the integrity of the post and fulfill its responsibilities to the best of his or her ability, rather than rushing to appoint someone to fill a seat,” she said. “With that being said, we are making every effort to appoint an election board chair as soon as possible.”
Both student and ex-officio council members disagree on whether the Oct. 3 vote to amend the election code was valid.
Administrative Representative Dr. Debra Geller has previously said she thinks any election code bylaw change needs a two-thirds vote from the council, or at least 10 votes from 14 council members.
However, Sharma said he thinks because Mokhtarzadeh did not appoint a chairperson by the deadline, she assumed the role of election board chair and should not be counted as a voting member.
Therefore, Sharma said he thinks the council only needed a two-thirds vote of the remaining members, or nine votes from 13 council members, to amend the election code.
UCLA spokesperson Tod Tamberg said in an email statement on behalf of Geller that UCLA believes there is ample time for an election board chair to be appointed and to propose changes to the election code before the spring quarter election.