Though student elections at GW are still months away, officials from the Student Association, Program Board and Marvin Center Governing Board already are preparing for next spring’s campaign.
The first of two public hearings was held Monday to discuss changes to be made to the charter of the Joint Elections Committee, the group responsible for running the elections for the three organizations.
According to SA Vice President for Judicial Affairs Brian Schoeneman, the leaders of the three groups have been working since August on creating a new charter for the JEC.
“We have started over from scratch; the 1997 charter will be a totally different document (than the previous two charters),” Schoeneman said. “We are trying to stick to the main, large issues in this document and let the JEC determine the smaller issues.”
The elections were combined in 1978 to make the process easier for students, who would be able to vote at one time for all groups. The changes also were made to lower the costs of holding the election.
Last year, a new charter was written to update the one that had been in place since the inception of the JEC. The SA Senate agreed to uphold the new charter on a trial basis for the 1997 elections, with the understanding that a new charter would be created for the 1997-98 school year.
Currently, PB and the MCGB recognize the 1996 charter as the official charter for the JEC, while the SA recognizes the 1978 charter. If an agreement on one charter is not reached, the three organizations will be forced to have separate elections.
Members of the Senate felt last year that the new charter was vague, and that it would be easier to fix after a test-run.
In recent years, campus elections have been plagued with allegations of campaign rule violations. Last year, the JEC was sued for adding a referendum to the ballot without SA approval.
The heads of each group hope to have a draft of the new charter available by the end of November, followed by more public hearings. The formal proposal would then be presented to the SA Senate, PB and the MCGB for approval by the Thanksgiving holiday, and assuming all three approve the charter, it would be in place by January.
MCGB member Michael Petron voiced concerns Monday about the timetable, questioning whether it was safe to assume that the three organizations would be able to reconcile any changes in the proposed charter in order to have it approved before winter break.
Petron also questioned the feasibility of creating and implementing an all-encompassing charter.
“There are some really smart people on this campus,” Petron said. “If you make this (the charter) bullet-proof, someone is going to use a grenade.”
Schoeneman said he hopes to base the new charter on the format of the Federal Elections Committee. He said he hopes to make the new charter more comprehensive than the previous two.
Including a definite beginning to the campaign season in the charter and defining a candidate were discussed at length at Monday night’s meeting.
Last year the Student Court addressed the question of when a person is considered to be a candidate for an elected position.
According to the JEC charter, a person did not become a candidate until that person officially registered with the JEC. However, the Student Court determined that a candidate was “anyone who is actively seeking office” whether that person has officially registered with the JEC or not.
MCGB Chair Jonathan Pompan said he believes this confusion may lead to unintentional abuses of the campaign season, and said he hopes that a clear definition of what a candidate is will alleviate these problems.
By defining a candidate as anyone who is actively seeking office, Schoeneman said hopes to keep anyone from having an unfair advantage in campaigning.