Possible senate vacancies leave questions about process

The ASPSU Elections Committee declined yesterday to issue a clear opinion on the process for filling empty student senate seats, with members saying they didn’t wish to comment on hypothetical situations.

Though no members of the incoming student senate have resigned to date, the Judicial Board will consider whether runner-up candidates or administration appointees from the Associated Students of Portland State University, the campus student government should fill the empty positions when senators resign before their term of office begins.

“What are we talking about?” Elections Committee member Suad Jama asked. “We don’t have any resignations.”

The Judicial Board, which meets tomorrow, had requested the Elections Committee’s recommendation, chair Ryan Schowen said.

“It’s not our purview to vote on it, they’re just seeing what we think,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t really know why they want our opinion.”

The committee pondered the merits of appointment versus what it called the “more democratic” option of selecting runner-up candidates in the ranking from the election.

“Because of the way things work, I want to say appointments,” Schowen said. “The thing is I agree with both sides.”

Filling potentially empty seats with runner up candidates would put candidates from the Barron/Craven slate in office. Every candidate who ran on the competing Devaney/Woon slate won a seat.

Ideally, members Jama and Fernando Camacho said, empty seats before the term of office begins would be filled by a new election.

“A second election for the vacant seats makes a lot of sense to me,” Camacho said.

“It makes a lot of sense,” Jama said, “but we cannot run a second election.”

At issue is the when a resignation may be accepted.

“I don’t know when the seats become vacant,” Schowen said, deferring to the Judicial Board’s authority to interpret the ASPSU constitution on the matter.

“It’s precedent not to deal with hypotheticals,” Schowen said.

When senators resign seats during their terms of office, the current ASPSU administration appoints new senators. Appointees must apply with the administration and be confirmed by the senate.

Senator elect Billy Taylor said he had submitted the question to the Judicial Board last week after rumors that runner-up candidates would fill empty senate positions.

Taylor was one of a handful of senators asked to resign two weeks ago by SALP adviser Natalee Webb, who notified students that their Winter Term grades and/or course loads made them ineligible to take office.

Webb said she had never told runner-up candidates they might take office if vacancies came up.

“I’m not the person that ever declares who takes office, so no, I wouldn’t have said that,” she said

In addition to discussing how potential seat vacancies should be filled, the Judicial Board will consider whether ASPSU should operate under the new language of the ASPSU constitution before the Devaney/Woon administration takes office. That decision determines whether the incoming student leaders take office May 1 or June 1. The board meets Friday, April 15 at 1 p.m. in Smith Memorial Student Union 230.