GW students will vote for student leaders after spring break this school year if the proposed Joint Elections Committee charter is approved.
The charter, which regulates student elections, has brought the election date into debate among students, along with issues on the definition of candidates and the role of the JEC.
The new charter proposes that elections for the Student Association, Program Board and Marvin Center Governing Board occur on the second Tuesday after undergraduate spring break.
The 1996 charter, which was drafted on a one-year trial basis with the understanding that it would be rewritten this year, called for elections to be held no later than 21 days before the start of the undergraduate spring break.
The later date of elections would create a loss of momentum for the campaigns, SA Executive Vice President Tony Sayegh said.
“A campaign is all about momentum,” Sayegh said. “It builds week by week, and if you throw spring break in, people will lose interest.”
Brian Schoeneman, SA vice president of judicial and legislative affairs, said the benefits outweigh the drawbacks of moving election day.
The proposed move is an attempt to cut down on the “lame-duck” period, the time between the day of elections and the day newly-elected officers assume their posts, Schoeneman said.
In addition, Schoeneman said he hopes moving the elections after spring break will shorten the campaign season so candidates don’t need to begin campaigning before winter break.
“The purpose of moving the elections back was not to cut back on the momentum of campaigns,” Schoeneman said. “The idea was that you’d have two weeks before the election for hard-core campaigning.”
The proposed charter also includes the addition of a section defining the meaning of a registered candidate to clarify when a candidate must abide by JEC rules.
The interpretation of candidacy came under scrutiny last spring after then-SA presidential candidate Andrew Lewis was fined for distributing campaign buttons in the Smith Center before registering as a candidate with the JEC.
The student court ruled against Lewis, who had appealed the fines. Lewis said since he had not yet registered as a candidate, he should not have been subject to JEC fines.
The proposed charter defines a candidate as “any individual who seeks election to office,” spends or receives $50 for a campaign, or distributes “material that advocates their election to any office.”
“(The definition) is a very good interpretation of the court case from last year,” Lewis said. “The way the court left the decision was that anyone who people think is running for office is a candidate.”
“If the rumor mill is running around that Joe Student is running for office, he is therefore responsible to the JEC, whether he has actually decided to run or not,” he added.
The new charter calls for a nine-member JEC, comprised of three appointees from each the SA, PB and the MCGB. The three groups would split the cost of the elections evenly.
Some student officials have said since elected SA members outnumber both the MCGB and PB members combined, it should have greater representation on the JEC and should shoulder more of the cost for the election.
“PB and MCGB are basically funding SA elections,” MCGB undergraduate representative Michael Petron said.
“The only fair way to break it down is to guarantee PB and MCGB at least one seat on the JEC, but then break it down by the number of seats open in each group,” Petron said. “(The writers of the charter) are trying to make something equal that is fundamentally not equal.”
Requiring the SA to fund more of the elections than the other two groups and gain greater representation on the JEC would run against the spirit of the JEC, since it was created in 1978 to equally regulate elections for all three student organizations, Schoeneman said.
The ideas of each organization having its own election committee while sharing a ballot for elections, or having completely separate elections, were put on the table. But one regulating committee would be more practical than three separate ones, Schoeneman said.
Along with the discussion of the clauses included in the charter and the structure of the JEC, some SA members have focused on the level of discretion the committee members have to enforce the laws each year.
One of the problems with the 1996 charter was that it gave the JEC too much power, according to Sayegh.
“The JEC should not be a committee that creates rules, it should enforce rules,” Sayegh said.
SA President Kuyomars “Q” Golparvar said the work of the JEC will not overshadow the elections.
“The JEC should not be the focus of the campaign; it should focus on the candidates, their platforms, and the issues,” Golparvar said. “We don’t want the focus of the campaigns to be who is getting fined, why they were fined, how much, etc.”
Frank Vitolo, chair of the rules committee in the SA Senate, said in a report to the Senate that the proposed charter is a good attempt at creating a document with which all three organizations can agree.
But he said he questions if the existence of the JEC is in the best interest of the SA.
“The main problem seems to be who gives what,” Vitolo said. “The SA disproportionately uses the resources of the JEC, while the other two bodies’ elections are relatively simple.”
“Maybe the JEC isn’t the best option,” he said.