SA orders review of election committee following spring scandal

Media Credit: Lisa Blitstein | Contributing Photo Editor

Sen. Brady Forrest, G-at-Large, said he proposed a bill to reform the JEC charter after it was "tested" during last year's SA elections.

The Student Association Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday ordering a review of the charter of the Joint Elections Committee, the body that oversees SA elections.

The senate will form a committee comprised of six senators, including two from each senate standing committee and two graduate senators, to examine the JEC’s governing structure and produce a bill proposing amendments by Nov. 20.

Sen. Brady Forrest, G-at-Large, said he sponsored the bill to help reform the JEC after last year’s SA elections, during which the charter was “tested.”

“The things that had happened were the first time they ever happened,” Forrest said. “Normally people aren’t immensely familiar with every comma and period.”

In the spring, former SA presidential candidate Cole Ettingoff accused an opponent, Lande Watson, and her team of harassment and stalking. Following a 10-hour-long hearing and an eight-hour-long deliberation, the JEC disqualified Watson from the race.

During the scandal, the presidential election was postponed twice and then canceled altogether, when SA leaders decided to follow the group’s constitution and make Peak Sen Chua, who had been elected executive vice president, the SA’s president.

The JEC was heavily criticized at the time for initially posting unredacted election violation complaints, filed by Ettingoff and his supporters, on its website. Some members of Watson’s campaign later claimed the JEC was ill-equipped to rule on violations as serious as stalking and harassment.

“This is us cleaning up our house,” Forrest said.

The review will make elections more effective, increase voter turnout, promote accessibility and make election dates consistent, Forrest said. The committee will host three town halls to gather student opinions.

The bill was amended by a 22-1 vote to add members of Class Council and Program Board to the committee.

Chua, who voiced support for the proposal at the start meeting, later signed the bill.

“I think this will be a great step in reforming the way that we do elections,” he said.

The SA created a similar committee to reform its financial bylaws in fall 2015 after then-SA President Nick Gumas vetoed the finance committee’s budget the previous spring after it denied funding for 56 student organizations.

Sen. Jan Yonan, CCAS-U, who will chair the committee, said the review will examine all aspects of the work of the JEC.

“I hope that through this committee, we do hope to provide a much more clear structure, to not only the endorsement process but to the filing process, the expenditures, as well as any sort of violation reporting,” he said.

Dani Grace contributed reporting.

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