Burt pushes for election reform

Student Association President David Burt sometimes feels like President Bill Clinton dealing with a Republican majority Congress when he works with the SA Senate.

Almost one full semester into his presidency, Burt said he has several ideas on how to make the SA more efficient, including plans to improve future elections. But members of the Senate have not agreed with all of Burt’s election reform ideas.

Burt proposed a bill that would make candidates for SA president and executive vice president run together as a unified ticket. But the Senate has stymied the bill.

I told everybody that I ran alone and to tell you the truth . I would have hated to run with somebody on the same ticket, he said. But I honestly and truly think its best for the organization.

Sen. J.P. Blackford (Graduate-SEAS) said the bill was voted down unanimously by the five Rules Committee members at the last Senate meeting – a move Burt said was motivated by political reasons.

Burt said a unified president and EVP ticket would provide better communication between the top two positions of the executive branch of the SA and prevent problems such as last year’s executive branch debacle, which led to the impeachment and removal of SA President Phil Meisner.

Sen. Matt Silverstein (Undergrad-At Large) said keeping the split executive ticket gives students choices in the election. He said a unified ticket would shift too much power to the president and EVP.

I wouldn’t want to see (bills) fly right through, Silverstein said. With the dirty politics at our school, it’s extremely good that doesn’t happen.

Burt said the issue of separation of powers should not be a concern because the president and EVP are both members of the executive branch, and the EVP only votes in the Senate in case of a tie.

EVP Cathy Resler said splitting the ticket would only contribute to election problems that turn students off to the SA.

People are already are concerned with the election being a popularity contest, Resler said. It could end up being one good candidate and one bad candidate running together.

Sen. Josh Rothstein (U-CSAS) said the bill would help the SA become more effective.

It’s very hard to take the politics out when you run on different slates and have different views, Rothstein said. I think of the SA as one organization and I think it should have a unified voice.

Burt said he is not giving up on the bill and will pursue other options to get it passed.

I’ve decided to take the Harry Truman approach to being president, he said. So I’m circumventing the Senate and I’m getting 1,800 signatures to put it on the ballot as a referendum.

If the petition receives 1,800 student signatures, a referendum would take place before the March election.

The main issue is the expense with running an election less than a month before the general election, said Blackford, who expects the vote to carry a $2000 price tag.

The Senate has also discussed more stringent campaign finance and palmcarding rules.

The people who palmcard don’t like palmcarding; the people who get palm cards don’t like receiving them, Burt said. So why are we still doing it?

Burt said he has proposed eliminating of all forms of bribery, including food and gum giveaways during election, and cutting the spending limit in half from $1500 to $750 for individual SA presidential campaigns.

Burt said he hopes that future candidates would not have to hand out Play-Doh or balloons to win elections – something he did during last year’s campaign.

SA elections are dirty and nasty, Burt said. Rules need to be in place to see that problems that happened in the past don’t happen again.

Blackford said loopholes in last year’s system allowed campaign violations such as illegal postering to go undetected.

Rothstein said he does not support banning palmcarding, but thinks it should be limited to specific areas at certain times of the day.

Senate members said they expect the bill to be debated at next Tuesday’s meeting.

Another piece of election controversy has arisen over the fate of the Joint Election Committee, and whether the SA, Program Board and Marvin Center Governing Board can unite under one set of election rules.

While many senators said they want to see a JEC composed of members from all three organizations, leaders of the SA and PB have been unable to reach an agreement.

Under SA rules, the Senate would have the final say on JEC rules – something PB Executive Chair Seth Weinert disagrees with.

While Weinert said the SA should be able to make its own election rules, he said the Senate should not have final approval on JEC rules.

Our officers may be fewer in number, but they are just as important to students because they’re controlling the same kind of stuff the SA is controlling, Weinert said.

Last year’s election operated under a Joint Operation Agreement, which set different rules for SA, MCGB and PB candidates.

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