On Dec. 1, the GUSA Election Commission announced that the results of Thursday’s referendum question to restructure the GUSA senate would be delayed pending a hearing on Sunday to examine several complaints of unconstitutional practices at polling stations across campus.
According to the Commission’s Twitter, complainants cited the presence of “Vote Yes” signs and other violations of the Free Speech and Expression Policy at GUSA polling stations as evidence that voters were unduly influenced to support Question 2. Question 2 proposed drastic structural changes to club funding practices and the modification of the GUSA Senate into the GUSA Assembly, a mix of both unelected advisory board members and elected class delegates. Both the GUSA executive and legislative branches have officially endorsed the reform, but individual members campaigned against it separately.
According to Grady Williams (SFS ‘18), vice chair of the Election Commission, the Constitutional Council, the judicial branch of GUSA, will release the outcome of the hearing on Sunday. The hearing will only impact the club funding reform question, not the smoking ban question which was also part of the referendum.
Jasmin Ouseph (SFS ‘19), a GUSA senator who is one of the students filing the complaint with the Election Commission, believes that the presence of “Vote Yes” signs, candy, and free ice cream sandwiches at the GUSA polling stations significantly influenced students’ votes, even though those voting incentives were offered to students regardless of how they decided to vote.
“The average student has not had a lot of information on the constitutional amendment, club funding, FinApp, or the referendum process in general,” Ouseph wrote in an email to the Voice. “Having polling stations to increase voter turnout and accessibility are not a problem, the problem was that these polling stations were primarily intended to sway voters to vote ‘yes’ on referendum 2.”
Ouseph also said that GUSA leaders sent emails to members expressing the intent of the polling stations as tools to encourage students to support the restructuring.
Mark Camilli (COL ‘19), another signatory of the complaint and the chair of dining and auxiliary services in GUSA, said that GUSA members who opposed the referendum were told that they would have to advocate for “Yes” votes in order to help run the polling locations.
“GUSA reps manning these tables were advocating the Vote Yes position through propaganda and spoken word as students voted,” Camilli wrote in an email to the Voice. “Obviously, if any students had questions about the confusing referendum (which was posted in an external link when you open the ballot) they would most likely receive a response that would direct them to vote yes.”
A statement released by GUSA Executives Enushe Khan (MSB ‘17) and Chris Fisk (COL ‘17) and GUSA senate leaders Richie Mullaney (COL ‘18) and Cherie Vu (COL ‘19) on GUSA’s Facebook page did not mention the petition, but thanked students for participating in the referendum.
“We’re thrilled at the day’s high voter turnout and appreciate students’ active engagement in dialogue about both referendums over the past few weeks,” they wrote in their statement. “The process leading up to tonight’s results was overseen by GUSA with careful attention to our Constitution and Bylaws, so we are confident that the Constitutional Council will uphold our actions and that the results of referendum #2 will be announced shortly.”