ASPSU election to be held on time

After a heated debate over deadlines and procedural rules on Friday, Portland State’s student government elections almost didn’t happen this week as scheduled.

After a heated debate over deadlines and procedural rules on Friday, Portland State’s student government elections almost didn’t happen this week as scheduled.

The delay was narrowly averted on Friday afternoon after more than five hours of discussion between members of the Associated Students of Portland State University’s senate and judicial review board, Student Activities and Leadership Programs and Vice President of Student Affairs Jackie Balzer.

The controversy began when the senate proposed several constitutional amendments for the ballot but the paperwork didn’t get to the judicial review board in time for a Thursday meeting or according to procedure, said judicial review board Chief Justice Aubrey Hoffman.

However, the JRB did approve the inclusion of former ASPSU Vice President Ethan Allen Smith’s new constitution on the ballot at their Thursday meeting. The constitution, which has been loudly opposed by the senate, would require each senate member to belong to the constituency they represent—for example, a student representing the freshman class would have to be a freshman. The constitution would also slash compensation for the majority of ASPSU positions.

The senate’s proposed amendments

On Friday morning, Hoffman sent out an email announcing that since the JRB hadn’t had time to review the senate’s amendments, the amendments would not appear on the ballot.

“To date, the senate’s constitutional amendment referendums have not been approved by the judicial board. Therefore, the referendum from the [s]enate must not be placed on this year’s ballot,” Hoffman said in the email.

Shortly thereafter, SALP Associate Director Katie Jundt asked Hoffman to either call an emergency meeting in order to approve the amendments or delay the election, citing the difficulty of modifying the website that hosts elections.

Hoffman stood by her ruling.

It was at this point, according to Hoffman, that Jundt said SALP had the authority to force a delay in the election and that that authority was backed by the PSU administration.

Hoffman disagreed, and the two, along with JRB Vice Chair Emily Kunkel, met with Balzer to discuss the matter.

Balzer’s answers to the problem were somewhat inconsistent. At one point in the meeting Balzer said, “You’ve come to me and asked, ‘Does SALP have the authority to do that [delay the election]?’ And I’m saying yes. And I’m not going to overturn that decision.”

However, later in the discussion, Balzer explained that she was trying to be helpful, not tell the JRB what to do. “It’s not with authority that we say you need to take a few days,” she said.

By this time members of the senate had joined the meeting, and Balzer encouraged all the student leaders in attendance to work together to resolve the issue.

What followed was a four-hour meeting between senate and JRB members. The pivotal discussion point of the meeting was whether the senate had followed the correct procedure when providing the JRB with their amendments.

The amendments were sent to the JRB by email 18 minutes before the board’s meeting. Senate Chair Sean Green and ASPSU University Affairs Director Tom Worth pointed out that they were told they needed to have their documents to the JRB by the meeting’s start time. But Hoffman and Kunkel maintained that expecting the JRB to read the amendments in the 18 minutes before the meeting was unreasonable.

After several hours of passionate yet civil discussion, the senate and the JRB realized that the debate had become counterproductive and began discussing possible resolutions.

“There’s going to be no resolution from talking about the process,” Hoffman said.

A delay or an emergency meeting?

The simplest option would have been an emergency meeting, but Hoffman was unable to get in touch with enough board members to hold a vote.

From there, the discussion turned to delaying the elections. Several options were reviewed, such as delaying the entire ballot. However, meeting attendees worried about the effect that would have on the candidates running for president, vice president, the senate and the student fee committee.

“Are we doing these candidates a disservice by holding the ballot hostage?” Hoffman asked.

Because of these concerns, the group discussed holding a regular election for candidates first and then holding a special election for the senate’s amendments and Smith’s proposed constitution once the JRB could meet. That idea was nixed because it wouldn’t be possible to modify the program used for hosting the elections in time.

Eventually, the group decided that the JRB would attempt to hold an emergency meeting as soon as possible, and that the election would start after that meeting.

At about 4:45 p.m. on Friday, the JRB was able to gather enough members to review the amendments and vote. The amendments were approved and will appear on the ballot in the elections, which started at the regularly scheduled time of 12:01 a.m. on Monday.