Senators Prepare to Fill Vacant Spot, Address Elections Issues


Madeleine Lee
Campus Beat Reporter

The Associated Students Senate began their legislative scramble at Wednesday night’s weekly meeting in the University Center’s Flying A Room to fill the current on-campus senator vacancy. The process has only three weeks left if senators wish to remain compliant with A.S. Legal Code.

Former senator Brian Samayoa-Velasquez’s resignation, which occurred when Senate was on break, left senators five weeks from their first session of winter quarter to find a qualified replacement.

On-Campus Senator Lesly Silva and Off-Campus Senator Ashley Selki both authored resolutions to assemble search committees. While Silva’s pre-formed committee included only on-campus senators, Selki’s remained open to including any senator who wished to be a part of the process, forcing senators to argue the nature of difference in representing on-campus and off-campus constituencies.

“There’s clear differences in legal code that are specified by their constituencies, and we’re all voted on by different people,” said Silva, pointing to requirements exclusive to on-campus senators that include attending Residence Hall Association Meetings. Silva also emphasized that only those living on-campus were eligible to vote for on-campus senators, of which off-campus senators “had no right to impose undue influence.”

“I did live on campus last year, but I don’t know what’s best for those students living on campus right now,” said Off-Campus Senator Cole Marting in support of Silva’s resolution. Marting said later that off-campus senators did not represent that constituency, and it would be “just wrong” for them to say who would be appointed to the vacancy.

Though initially divided in a 12-11 hand vote in favor of Selki’s more open resolution, the vote did not meet the 50 percent plus 1 majority requirement, and senators turned back to the table for further discussion, eventually tabling Silva’s resolution in favor of Selki’s in the hopes that a larger search committee would speed up the process.

Though only two weeks into winter quarter, the flags of election season also began to unfurl for next year as senators reviewed A.S. Election Board’s most recent ballot counting system

A.S. Assistant Director of Technology Sean Lieberman offered a detailed breakdown of the Single Transferable Vote System. Using a widely-tested algorithm, the STV system requires voters to rank candidates in order of preference. After votes are tallied, candidates that meet a determined baseline number of votes (“droop quota”) win automatically, while their excess votes are evenly distributed to the remaining candidates until all positions are filled.

“STV is slightly more complex than the old system, but it ensures that no vote is wasted and is really third party friendly,” said Lieberman on Wednesday.

The STV system has attempted to offer more proportional representation in student government and replaces the long used and more traditional “First Past the Post” method which students in the past complained “wasted votes” and was overly “two party dominant.” This particular ballot counting system was one of the biggest (and for a time, most controversial) outcomes of the 66th A.S. Senate last academic year.

To subdue critics and increase transparency, Lieberman noted that the software was open sourced last month.

In addition to election discussion, senators also passed a resolution in support of preserving El Centro as a permanent space, and a resolution in support of a program that would allot a certain number of spaces for Syrian refugee students on campus.