SGA okays legislation to extend campaign time, spending limit on general elections

SGA passed legislation Monday night to increase the campaign time for presidential elections to three weeks and the voting period to one week. The amount presidential candidates can spend on their campaigns was also raised to $750, and the amount senatorial candidates can spend was raised to $500.

The legislation, authored by Senator Justin Robinson and co-sponsored by Parliamentarian Gene Mitchell, was originally brought before Senate a week previously and was voted down due to concerns about the amount of money being raised and the constitutionality of the proposed campaign length.

Concerns about money were settled as Senator Bradshaw moved to friendly amend the original limit of $1,000 to $750 and Senator Robinson friendly amended it after discussion by Senator White and President Locke of their own campaign expenses.

The question of constitutionality arose because of a passage in Article 7, Title 1, Part 2 of the SGA Constitution that states: “The Senate shall hold its yearly general election within two weeks of spring break to elect senators and members of the executive branch who are subject to election.”

Some senators interpreted the language to mean that the election day for both senatorial and presidential candidates must be held within two weeks of spring break, while others felt that the two week time period referred to the beginning of the campaign.

Although the motion passed, Senator Matt Hickman voted no because he was never convinced of its constitutionality.

“I think it’s unconstitutional in the way that I read the constitution, however I can see how the language could be seen as constitutional. But given the general language in that one clause and in another clause later on, it makes it clear that the language includes the campaign as well, and the campaign will go beyond the intended two weeks that’s in our constitution,” Hickman said.

Mitchell, who stated that his job as Parliamentarian is to inform the president on the accuracies on understanding of the constitution and its bylaws, believes a deep reading of the constitution was necessary in order for senators to pass the legislation.

“The first time Senator Hickman read this phrase, he understood general election to mean that the time frame for presidential and senatorial elections could be staggered. The next week, he argued against the legislation because he understood within two weeks to mean that the election day for both has to be held within two weeks,” Mitchell said. “I would say that is a very shallow reading of the constitution.”

He also pointed out that Hickman’s view was extreme, as most of Senate did not agree.

Mitchell said he was compelled to put his name on the legislation after a conversation with Senator Robinson in which Robinson expressed a desire to make the election process more democratic, get more students out to vote and consequently help SGA be more visible to the student body.

“I looked at his legislation and found it to be not only constitutional but also very democratic,” Mitchell said. “Looking at what Senator Robinson wanted to do and what the legislation could do, I couldn’t help but put my name on it so he at least knew he had my support.”

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