Senators consider bylaw changes at USG meeting

Undergraduate Student Government Associate Director of Elections Katherine Lee and Assistant Director of Elections Donielle Bunyard presented proposed changes to the election bylaws at the USG Senate meeting Tuesday evening.

One of the changes would lengthen the time allowed for the election commission to deliberate on issues during the period from the confirmation of the candidates to the start of second semester.

Currently, the director of elections has 24 hours to decide whether an issue merits a meeting by the commission, and the commission has 48 hours to pass down a verdict.

The proposed bylaw change would lengthen the deliberation time to 48 hours and 72 hours, respectively, although the original times would apply from the start of second semester through election season.

The proposed bylaw changes would also overhaul the system for sanctioning candidates.

The previous system of strikes necessitated specific sanctions regardless of the violation, while the new system would give the election commission more discretion in administering the appropriate sanction for the situation.

The proposal would also abolish the distinction between major and minor strikes, which Lee described as “very confusing.”

With the changes, the elections directors are seeking to administer sanctions on campaigns that will curtail offending behavior.

“We really just want to find a good fit for the violation — not necessarily giving them a sanction that would hurt their campaign more, but one that would match with what they did,” Lee said. “For example, if they’ve committed a social media violation, and we give them ‘no physical campaigning for one day,’ they could continue to commit their violation.”

Several USG Senators, including USG Senator Daniel Newman and USG Senator Josh Lurie, raised concerns that the changes would grant the election commission too much discretion in imposing sanctions.

In response, Lee said that the judicial branch would have the power to override any decisions by the election commission they found unfair, although Sen. Tingyee Chang claimed that the judicial process would be too lengthy for a time-sensitive election.

Bunyard said that the judicial branch has always been the resource for candidates who want to appeal election commission decisions, although she and Lee are working to find an alternate pathway.

“This has been in place for as long as USG has been around, so this has always been the channel,” Bunyard said. “But we’re going to be talking to them. I’ve already spoken to Sen. Chang and Sen. Lee and we’re going to be in communication about what are the best policies, and we’re also reaching out to judicial to speak with them about it.”

Other proposed changes include a clarification that senators cannot run on a slate with presidential candidates, which has not been an issue at USC but has arisen at other universities.

In addition, candidates now have a mechanism to disavow those campaigning on their behalf by providing evidence to the election commission that the outside campaigners are not involved with their campaign.

The changes will be voted on at the next USG meeting.

The Senate also voted to fill a vacant position in USG’s advocacy branch, which had been discussed in last week’s meeting.

The Senate unanimously voted to confirm Maariyah Patel, originally the assistant director of philanthropy fund, as the new Academic Affairs director, after voting against immediate confirmation during the previous Senate meeting.