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April 25, 2014
Please consider this a formal complaint regarding the referendum posted today, April 25, 2014.
I believe that the procedure outlined in the constitution for referenda was not followed correctly. The proper procedure, as I understand it based on section X of the constitution, is as follows:
- The student(s) submitting the referenda bring it to the JC before collecting any signatures for review.
- After receiving feedback from the JC, the students gather the signatures of 10% of students in each class. Once the signatures are collected. they bring the petition to the chair of the Elections Committee.
- Usually voting takes place on the day of the next election. If the students wish to hold voting on another day, that day must be approved by a special vote of the Senate (2/3) or of the student body (15% of each class).
- If a special vote is to be held to approve the polling day, the referendum shall be announced 3 days prior to the vote. Even if taking place on the normally-appointed election day, it must be publicized no less than 5 days in advance.
- The election must be publicized to all eligible voters, including seniors and students on leave. I stress again that all students are eligible to vote on constitutional referendum as made clear under X-3-1.
It seems clear to me that the procedure above was not followed. The referendum was not brought to the entire JC for review, no special vote was held to approve the polling date, and the referendum was not announcd far enough in advance or to all eligible voters (read: seniors). For these reasons, it must be declared invalid.
I also question the validity of a referendum bearing upon the results of a previous JC decision. It is not apparent to me that the constitution grants the student body the power to void JC decisions by majority vote. In addition, the portion of the referendum concerning constitutional amendment may contain biased language; it is also somewhat vague as to the exact text to be amended. This is all my personal interpretation of the language, but the possibility for confusion highlights the danger of not following the procedure outlined above. I invite the JC to consider these questions should they rule that the referendum is invalid, and should the petitioning party resubmit it following the procedure outlined above.
I know that students earnestly desire constitutional change and I don't mean to obstruct them in that end. But it is important that the correct procedure is followed in order to ensure fairness and constitutional compliance in the first place.
Noah Gordon '14
On May 1st at approximately 5:45 the Judiciary Council ruled on a recent complaint challenging the constitutionality of the recent referendum on several grounds. The voting members of the Judiciary Council ruled that although several of the grounds of the complaint were sound, they were not enough to invalidate the results of the referendum. The Judiciary Council voted 3-0 to allow the results of the referendum to stand with Sophie Delfeus ’17, Johnathan Appel `16, and Marie Lambert ’15 voting in favor.
The complaint was filed on April 25th and the Judiciary Council assembled on April 27th to discuss it’s validity. Birk Mitau ‘16 and Servet Bayimli ‘16 recused themselves as they were involved in the original decision that the referendum was challenging. This left the Judiciary Council with four members total. This is quorum and the Judiciary Council to go forward with the remaining members. A Judiciary Council consisting of myself, Zack Gerdes ’14, Johnathan Appel `16, and Marie Lambert ’15 voted to consider the complaint valid.
The Judiciary Council met on the April 28th to discuss the complaint further and to determine whether the current Judiciary Council should handle the complaint or pass it on to the Council that was to be inaugurated on the night of April 28th (that night). The Judiciary Council decided that the current Judiciary Council should keep purview over the referendum even after the new Judiciary Council was inaugurated that evening. The newly inaugurated Judiciary Council agreed, recused themselves, and named myself, Sophie Delfeus, Johnathan Appel, and Marie Lambert as the acting Judiciary Council.
The Judiciary Council first considered the complaint’s question of whether the student body can put a Judiciary Council decision up for a referendum. The Judiciary Council unanimously agreed that the student body can bring “any question” to referendum with at the signatures of least 10% of each class of eligible voters.
The Judiciary Council held a public hearing on May 1st where it heard from Noah Gordon ’14, Servet Bayimli ’16, and Joshua Ferrer ’17. Ferrer discussed his disapproval of the Judiciary Council’s handling of the complaint and questioned whether it should be hearing a complaint about a referendum that would overturn a previous Judiciary Council decision in the first place. He also argued that the original complaint to which the referendum pertained had it’s language approved by a member of the Judiciary Council and therefore the language of the referendum was too
Noah Gordon ’14, the filer of the complaint, spoke to his complaint and his interpretation of the constitution that led to him filling said complaint. Gordon specifically emphasized his concern that Seniors were not able to vote for the first eight hours of the referendum and were not given three days notice of the referendum.
Bayimli addressed each of Gordon’s points in his complaint. He conceded that he had not brought the language of the referendum to the Judiciary Council prior to getting the necessary signatures (15% of each class eligible to vote) as outlined in the Constitution but he did bring the referendum to the Judiciary Council Chair (who served as representative of the Judiciary Council) after receiving the signatures. The Judiciary Council Chair confirmed that the referendum language and date were constitutionally sound and ready to go forward.
Bayimli interpreted “eligible voters” to only mean First years, Sophomores, and Juniors because the Seniors were not eligible to vote in the Senate and Judiciary Council elections which would take place three days prior to the referendum vote. With this interpretation in mind, Bayimli only collected signatures from three of the four classes eligible to vote.
The referendum was in turn only open for voting to First years, Sophomores, and Juniors. The elections committee was notified that the Senior class was, in fact, eligible to vote in the election and the polls were subsequently (at 8 A.M) opened to the Seniors. Because the seniors were originally not eligible to vote, they were also not notified that there would be a referendum on April 25th as constitutionally mandated.
The Judiciary Council considered the procedural mis-steps taken throughout the referendum’s process but as several of the referendum’s mistakes (Complaint points 1 and 2) were either signed off by the Judiciary Council Chair during the process or deemed by the voting members of the Judiciary Council as not consequential enough to significantly affect the results of the referendum (Complaint points 4 and 5), the Judiciary Council opted to both release and uphold the results of the referendum.
The voting members of the Judiciary Council voted unanimously (3-0) to overrule the complaint. The results of the referendum shall be released and go into affect immediately.
Tomi Williams '16
Acting Judiciary Council Chair