Updated: Feb. 23, 2018 at 9:40 p.m.
The Joint Elections Commission – the body that oversees student body elections – unanimously moved Friday to allow online and some off-campus students to virtually petition for a spot on the Student Association election ballot.
The decison, handed down in an advisory opinion, will allow online or off-campus students who live at least 20 miles or more away from campus and do not have any classes on the Foggy Bottom or Mount Vernon Campuses to submit a request for an online petition to garner the signatures needed to run for office. The required number of signatures varies by position.
The JEC will issue qualified candidates an OrgSync form to email out for other students to sign. Students who sign the petition must be logged-in through OrgSync, JEC Chairman Bob Wu said.
Previously, students interested in running would have to collect all signatures in person to be eligible for the election.
Graduate SA senators pushed for the change late this week after some students said they were at a disadvantage when trying to collect signatures because they lived far from campus. Some said the in-person signature mandate could jeopardize their ability to get on the ballot.
The JEC called an emergency meeting Friday following the request to discuss possible solutions ahead of the Monday deadline to submit a petition to run for an SA seat.
The advisory opinion also recommended that the SA Senate “explore the possibility of virtual petitioning for all students in the future.”
Sen. Alvin Lam, SEAS-G, said that because he lives in Philadelphia and only travels to campus every other week for an SA meeting, he wouldn’t be able to file a petition for re-election without an option to collect signatures online. He was one of the leaders of the graduate student movement to implement virtual petitioning.
“As an online student, I am virtually being barred from participating in this election,” Lam said in an interview Friday before the decision.
SA Sen. Brady Forrest, G-at-Large, said during the meeting that the change would make SA elections more “accessible and democratic” by making it easier for the more than 10,000 off-campus students to run for office.
He urged the JEC to issue an advisory opinion “so that everyone is able to participate and anyone can give a valid signature, and you don’t need to physically be at Foggy Bottom at a particular time to get a particular person’s signature in writing.”
Wu, the chairman of the JEC, said he hopes future amendments to election processes are enacted by the SA senate and submitted earlier in the election cycle.
“Given our limited time and expediency of this requirement, we wanted to make sure their concerns were addressed and we feel like we’ve done so in the best way,” he said.
He said in the future, the SA should work to create an amendment to allow all candidates to petition online, but under a short time span, the JEC could not make that change and ensure that the process is safe.
“It is their right to do so, it is their responsibility to do – and we have faith in that process,” Wu said. “The SA is elected, we are appointed – we simply interpret. We did the best that we could today to uphold those bylaws.”