Amendment gives elections board more autonomy over USAC elections calendar
The Undergraduate Students Association Council voted in February to amend the elections code to give the elections board chair more autonomy in determining the elections calendar. (Daily Bruin file photo)
March 1, 2021 3:21 p.m.
An amendment will give the board that runs the student government elections more independence over the elections calendar.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council passed a resolution Feb. 9 that will give the Undergraduate Students Association Elections Board chair unilateral authority to amend the elections calendar without council approval after week five of winter quarter.
The elections board has already used the amendment. The council approved a previous version of the elections calendar in January, but after the amendment, elections board chair Alfred Tun changed the election calendar without direct USAC approval and presented the new version to USAC on Feb. 16.
The elections calendar includes dates for ballot presentations, campaigning, debates and voting, as well as information on candidate application packets. The board will have to present any changes to USAC at the next meeting to allow for council input under the amended code.
The 2021 election cycle is the first time USAC will hold its elections completely online. Candidates can start campaigning April 7, and students can vote starting April 30 at 8 a.m. until May 7 at 2 p.m. The elections board also scheduled two candidate debates April 27 and 28.
[Related link: USAC confirms spring 2021 virtual elections cycle schedule]
In past years, USAC approved the election calendar by a majority vote. USAC and the elections board used to work together on the elections calendar to be approved at council meetings, Tun said.
However, neither the USA constitution nor USAC’s bylaws state that USAC must vote to approve the election calendar.
Tun said the purpose of the election board is to administer elections independently of USAC and make sure elections are open and fair, adding that the previous framework allowed the council to influence the elections board’s operations to suit its own agenda.
Bakur Madini, the USAC International Students Representative, said political bodies like USAC should not have the authority to change the election calendar.
“(The election board) doesn’t need the actual approval of the council,” said Madini, a second-year physics and economics student. “It makes sense because it doesn’t fit right that a political entity with some of its members who are going to be running in this election decide the deadlines and what happens.”
Naomi Riley, the USAC president and a fourth-year political science student, said USAC has an interest in having some jurisdiction over the calendar to prevent election board chairs from overstepping their power.
For example, a future elections board chair could change the elections calendar near the start of the campaign season, which may be unfair to candidates planning their campaigns, Riley said.
“Once the calendar is approved, there should be little to no changes that are made”, she said.
Riley added that she thinks USAC has jurisdiction over the election calendar through the Necessary and Proper Clause in the USA Constitution, which gives USAC the power to fulfill its necessary functions. Riley also said she hoped to insert more language in the election code to ensure that changes to the election calendar are done after consultation with USAC.
However, Riley said she was satisfied with the compromise over the new elections code, which gives more autonomy to the election board over the election calendar after week 5 of winter quarter but limits the board’s ability to release the calendar before then without the approval of USAC.
Tun said he agreed that USAC also has an interest in protecting the association and ensuring the smooth running of elections.
“This essentially upends many years where the election board was having to obtain the council’s approval before any amendments of the election calendar,” Tun said. “That really is a step in the right direction.”