Uncertainty lies ahead for voter-approved tweaks to the A.S. Council constitution after the governing body loses power to implement them.
The A.S. Judicial Board struck down the validity of a referendum amending the governing body’s bylaws on Tuesday, May 20. Following a student-filed grievance, the Judicial Board’s decision strips A.S. Council of the ability to implement voter-approved changes to the Council’s structure — which student leaders had planned to do for the 2015 general elections.
Council’s Bylaws Committee had proposed several changes to the A.S. Constitution during the 2013-14 term, including changing VP Student Life to VP Campus Affairs, adding two International Senators to the Council and decreasing the number of First Year senators on Council from three to two.
A grievance hearing was held in response to two complaints that Thurgood Marshall College UC Advisory Board Representative Ellen Kim filed against the new A.S. Council due to several alleged constitutional violations — including that the referendum language had not been available to students prior to and during the election except on the actual ballot.
Kim filed her first grievance based on four different violations — specifically that A.S. Council did not send out two emails to the student body with the referendum texts and that pro and con statements were not present on the ballot.
The second grievance pertained to how the votes were counted — Kim argued that “abstain” votes should count when determining whether a majority vote passed or not, rather than being omitted completely. Although A.S. Council presides under Robert’s Rules of Order — meaning it does not count abstain votes — Kim claimed that there is no language that mandates elections to also follow Robert’s rules.
Kim explained that both of these grievances were grounds to nullify the results of the student referendum vote.
Interim Advocate General Colin King defended A.S. Council at the hearings and argued that it was inappropriate that the hearing was held before the Judicial Board, rather than an elections grievance committee.
“This is an elections grievance [that] should be filed [and] considered as an elections grievance,” King said. “It happened during the elections process, and the complainant quoted multiple citations from the elections code.”
Thus, the main dispute was regarding whether the grievance should have been filed against A.S. Council or the A.S. Elections Committee. The Elections Committee hears cases up to two days after the grievances are discovered, and it dissolves two weeks after elections are over to ensure that if a grievance is filed, it is filed in a timely manner.
Though these grievances exceeded that two-week period, Kim explained that UCSD provides her with a 21-academic day window to file a grievance if it is against A.S. Council as a whole. Kim stated that since the election code violations fall under the Council bylaws, A.S. Council still has jurisdiction over the procedures, meaning it did not necessarily have to be an elections grievance.
The Judicial Board agreed that three of the four violations in the first grievance fell under ASUCSD Act 528, which was within Judicial Board’s jurisdiction. It eventually ruled to overturn the amendment referendum results based on the evidence heard during the hearing.
However, it ruled for King in the second grievance, finding that all acts of A.S. Council, including referendums, are conducted according to Robert’s Rules and the abstentions were correctly omitted from the final vote count.
Kim later questioned former Advocate General Ernie Mejia about whether the election results are binding constitutional changes.
“It’s a recommendation to Council on behalf of ASUCSD,” Mejia said. “The Council has jurisdiction to adopt these changes by ASUCSD, [and] now it is up to A.S. Council to approve them to be put into effect next year.”
King expressed plans to appeal the Judicial Board decision in a future hearing.