During the Student Congress meeting on Monday, the primary topic of debate was Student Association (SA) President Nicholas Ferrara’s proposed legislation involving an overhaul of the SA operating rules.
Over winter break, Ferrara completely redrafted the management policies and procedures (MPP) and the SA bylaws, combining the two documents into one. This is part of a wide-ranging effort to simplify the way the SA does business.
“The SA has not significantly reworked its election policy since 2012 and what is written no longer reflects our current practices,” wrote Ferrara in an email. “For example, the SA did not conduct elections digitally the last time the policy was significantly revised despite digital elections changing many important dynamics.”
As it currently stands, SA election rules require a candidate to receive 40 percent of the total vote to declare victory. This system is a version of the “first past the post” system, which means that students select only one candidate, and the candidate that gets the most votes wins — provided that they reach the 40 percent threshold.
Ferrara’s proposal would change this process to a single transferable vote (STV) system. Under this voting procedure, voters would rank candidates in order of preference instead of only selecting one. According to Ferrara, this process is significantly more equitable for all candidates.
“STV allows voters to rank candidates so that if their preferred candidate proves nonviable their vote is not wasted but instead used on their second choice,” Ferrara said. “It eliminates the possibility of vote splitting and allows voters to vote for whoever they think is best without having to strategize about other voters’ preferences. It would also shorten the election season and allow more time to train the winners since it does not require runoffs.”
Those in attendance generally responded positively to these proposed changes.
“The voting system is a great idea that honestly should have been passed sooner,” said Richard Hoffer, the SA treasurer and a senior double-majoring in business administration and mathematics. “It in no way would have resulted in different outcomes and expedites the process of runoffs in a fair way. It provides even more data on preferences than the old system, without any additional issues in terms of counting votes or collection.”
Another important aspect of the proposed rules are the changes to ethics regulations for decision-making members of the SA. As it stands, Student Conduct and the University Judicial Board members are expected to recuse themselves from decisions regarding groups with which they have a conflict of interest. However, this does not always occur. The new rules would make explicit what comprises membership in an organization and ensures accountability for those who don’t recuse themselves.
The legislation will likely be voted on during the next meeting of Student Congress on Feb. 6.