Concerned Students Flood Senate to Support STV

Katie Chong/TBL Photography

Gwendolyn Wu
Campus Beat Reporter

The Single Transferable Vote (STV) system was once again the focus of the Associated Students Senate meeting. The room was packed on Wed., Apr. 6 with 2016 A.S. Senate candidates and concerned students eager to voice their opinions.

Prior to the meeting, Internal Vice President Kimia Hashemian emailed the Senate agenda and additions, including a passage from A.S. Legal Code. In the email, she stated that she interpreted STV as violating A.S. Legal Code Article VI, Sections 1 and 2, as it does not elect students by plurality, but proportionality. The ongoing debate presents the question of which voting system truly represents as many students as possible.

STV has been a topic of discussion at Senate meetings since fall quarter. Senators unanimously passed STV in October, and in February  presentations by A.S. Assistant Director for Technology Sean Lieberman, Elections Board Chair Avery Chamberlain and former senators Stevan Abdalmalik and Nawar Nemeh explained how the new system would be implemented.

“Since Judicial Council is the body that decides the constitutionality of such matters, I wanted to make you all aware that when the case is brought up and STV is shown to be unconstitutional, the entire election will be invalid (if elections is already completed by then),” Hashemian wrote in her email. “However, if JC does not find it unconstitutional, then everything will be fine. I understand that students and staff have put in time in creating the STV system. I am not trying to undermine anyone’s work. I am simply presenting you all with what is in the AS Constitution.”

Legal Code has three parts: standing rules and policies, by-laws and the constitution. Some students interpret the constitution as being broader and taking precedence over the other two sections.

Hashemian included the passage of Legal Code in her email for purposes of transparency, she explained. A bill or resolution must be passed in order to make changes to accommodate STV, but Senate is unable to make those changes before A.S. elections occur later this month. As of press time, Judicial Council the only A.S. entity that may recommend such changes to Elections Board has not indicated that it will take action.

Chamberlain reaffirmed Elections Board’s nonpartisan stance on STV both in an email and at the Senate meeting. In his email, Chamberlain said A.S. Elections Code has been available to the Senate since its finalization at the end of fall quarter, questioning why the issue had not been brought up earlier.

“Since active campaigning is less than a week away and voting is in less then [sic] two weeks away, Elections Board must fulfill the responsibilities prescribed by legal code which is to implement the voting system, STV, that was voted on by Senate during fall quarter when Elections Code was set for the year,” he wrote. “As obliged by the task we have been given by senate [sic] we will follow legal code [sic] and continue with the implementation of STV for the Spring Election, unless otherwise directed by Judicial Council.”

Elections Board will not be reversing the changes to the voting system unless required by Judicial Council, especially with A.S. elections on the horizon.

Several supporters of the policy shift interpreted Hashemian’s email as a call to fight STV on the eve of A.S. elections, which will take place later this month from April 18 to 21. Should the IVP’s concerns yield a judicial reversal, some worried about being properly represented on the Senate.

“The students need a voice; the students want to have a voice,” said first-year economics and accounting major Kuvimbanashe Chikukwa during public forum. “Clearly, we can see that the student voice is not being represented as of now … It scares me a little bit that you are still trying to fight the voice of the students.“

A few went so far as to say the call was a political ploy that could have to do with party divisions within the Senate and A.S. more broadly. They cited previous points of concern with Senate’s transparency and communication and called on A.S. to keep the voting system.

“Here we have conservatives, communists, black students, white students and everything in between,” said second-year economics and accounting and history double major Juliano Pula. “Your whole student body is coming out in support of STV. Don’t let them down.”

Gwendolyn Wu is a third year double majoring in history and sociology, and is the 2016-2017 Executive Content Editor of The Bottom Line. She grew up in the San Fernando Valley and attended Cleveland High School, and is interested in pursuing journalism as a career. When not poring over history books, she's watching Cutthroat Kitchen and mentoring first year students.