By: Tia Ayele
Woe is the political party that fails to adhere to the SGA election code – that was the message immediately understood by the reDefine political party at the election committee hearing last Thursday. The SGA election committee is comprised of six students, three of which are apart of SGA and two of which are external members. The committee is responsible for planning and managing the annual elections of SGA so that the procedures are carried out effectively as defined by the SGA Constitution. Chaired by the Attorney General, Wes Robisnon, the elections committee found that the reDefine executive ticket was in violation of two codes, one dealing with active campaigning and the other regarding the improper placement of campaign material.
Although the hearing started seventeen minutes late, it was all business once the hearing commenced. The committee started by explaining the purpose of the hearing and the potential consequences that would result from it: a formal warning that would leave reDefine unscathed, or an official sanction. Three sanctions would culminate in the suspension of the campaign and five sanctions would mean total disqualification. The first issue of contention was in regards to an alleged violation of §700.3, where reDefine was accused of performing an act of active campaigning during the“passive campaign” week spanning from March 20 to March 24. The second allegation concerned a violation of §705.4(d), where reDefine was accused of improperly placing campaign material in front of an unauthorized bulletin board at the Department of Intercultural Affairs. After what appeared to be much deliberation, the elections committee found that reDefine was in violation in both cases and decided that reDefine would be punished by an official sanction.
Because they received only one sanctions, reDefine’s campaign did not suffer any real consequences, but the hearing gives us some meaningful insight about the structure of the committee . For starters, the hearing demonstrated the fallibleness of the structure of which SGA rests upon. The fact that the elections committee has the jurisdiction to simultaneously bring forth violations by filing their own complaints, while interpreting the code and executing punishment for violations of it, reflects a major problem within the student government’s structure. reDefine explained this as the equivalent to a scenario where a cop has the jurisdiction to pull someone over and also play the role of a judge for that same individual. This seems inherently unfair; it is unjust for the elections committee to play the role of the cop and the judge at the same time. reDefine is attempting to change this conflict of interest, having already suggested the implementation of two separate governing bodies, one to police and the other to interpret the alleged violations. reDefine believes that this would remedy the issue.
reDefine is not the only executive ticket to have a hearing; all of the campaigns have had its fair share of run-ins with the election committee. The Ignite executive ticket has had two hearings with the elections committee thus far, leaving them with one official sanction.
All in all, the hearing revealed the unnerving deficiencies of SGA’s jurisdiction, and a potential lack of political tact by reDefine. This shortcoming could be attributed to the fact that reDefine is a completely external ticket (meaning that none of their executive ticket has any prior SGA experience), which makes their party more vulnerable to violations by the election committee. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that reDefine has had an unprecedented influence on the race. Most students have not experienced an SGA political party like reDefine before. With its adept guerilla marketing strategies and its enthusiastic spirit, reDefine has sparked an interest among parts of the student body who would normally be apathetic towards the SGA elections. Regardless of the outcome of the elections on Friday, reDefine will have successfully left an enormous legacy on the UGA campus; one that demonstrates that any student can be involved in student government.