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Friday, November 27, 2020

Student Government

SGA changes election code

In preparation for election season, the Student Government Association held a special meeting Tuesday to approve changes to its election code.

The SGA Senate approved the new election code unanimously.

The election code fulfills the responsibility of the Senate to set down the manner in which elections shall be held and how to judge the elections and the candidates. 

Some of the changes made to the election code include the removal of political parties on the ballots, a clause that specifies that an elected candidate must serve on the Senate for at least one full academic year, the exclusion of summer terms and restrictions on where candidates can and cannot post campaign ads.

Among some of the things candidates will not be allowed to do are use an aircraft to campaign, send potential voters unsolicited electronic messages and campaign during class time. 

The code also specifies penalties for any violations of these measures.

Speaker Kyrie Ruiz said the changes were done because of the ambiguity of the previous code, which left too many issues up for interpretation. There needed to be clarity of what candidates can and cannot do, she said.

“There were things (in the previous election code) that were very unclear and very ambiguous, things that could have been read either way and too many things that were left at the discrepancy of the election commission,” she said.

Ruiz said that the previous election commissioners had said that it was hard to follow the code that was then in place.

Mila Clarke, the newly appointed interim speaker and internal affairs chair, helped write the code and shared Ruiz’s sentiments.

“(Election commissioner) is a hard job,” she said. “And it is even harder with a code that you have to kind of interpret, and everyone got a little angry with them when something went one way and they thought it should have gone another. There was just too much room for interpretation.”

SGA Vice President Prince Wilson said the code needed to be changed to accommodate new electronic media that candidates use to campaign, such as Facebook and other online chatting sites.

Ruiz said the code is not like a constitution, which should be left open for interpretation; the election code outlines what should be permitted and what shouldn’t be.

The code was almost changed completely, according to Clarke and Ruiz.

“Most of it was scratched,” Clarke said.

She said that when writing the code, they looked at election codes from other universities’ student governments and applied to UH whatever they felt worked best for them.

Clarke said the election code from Louisiana State University served as the main source of inspiration.

“LSU and (Arizona State University) have really good election codes,” she said. “ So we took what worked on theirs and put it on ours.”

Newly appointed Election Commissioner Saifuddin Kalolwala said he is happy with the changes SGA made to the code.

“There is definitely no ambiguity now,” he said. “They did good in making sure it is as clear as possible.”

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