Despite receiving unanimous approval from the Senate, a bill that some senators think would make Student Government elections more fair has been vetoed by SGA President Chris Clemente and Student Development and Enrollment Services Vice President Dr. Maribeth Ehasz.
Bill 48-75 was intended to protect the rights of students accused of violating regulations during SGA elections, said Jacob Milich, the senator who introduced the bill.
Included in the amendment are provisions granting those accused of violating election statutes the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, the right to cross-examine witnesses, and the ability to review all evidence prior to the hearing.
“There were just a couple things lacking in the way we do things when it comes to elections,” Milich said, explaining his reason for drafting the bill.
“I wanted to introduce the fact that the accused should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and just allow a little more time and access to the evidence against the accused so they have the time and ability to build a case and defend themselves.”
While Milich may have had the rights of students in mind while drafting the bill, SGA President Chris Clemente said those same rights were his reason for vetoing it.
Specifically, Clemente explained his solitary reason for rejecting the bill was a single line granting the accused the right to receive hard copies of all evidence presented against them.
“I had a great concern with just preserving the legitimacy of the process, and ensuring that the evidence wasn’t shared with individuals not involved,” Clemente said.
Clemente went on to highlight his concern that the public’s ability to view the evidence could “create an atmosphere of sensationalization.”
“We want to ensure all the candidates are held accountable, but also, at the end of the day, we’re still all students,” Clemente said.
Clemente and Milich are familiar with the violation process, both having been subjects of hearings in front of the election commission during the SGA presidential election earlier this year. In a meeting closed to the public, Milich’s ticket was found guilty of several violations and removed from the ballot. Clemente’s ticket was cleared of wrongdoing.
Milich explained during the entire violation process, the accused have the opportunity to review the evidence against them and release it to the public without getting sanctioned. However, they are only allowed to review the evidence at an administrator’s office.
“That’s not the environment needed to consult with who you want to consult with, and look over everything in-depth and have the privacy to build a defense,” Milich said.
Milich also cited a lack of communication as an issue during the bill process, saying neither the President or Administration reached out to talk about the bill before it was vetoed.
“I have never heard any issues until after it gets approved by the Senate three times, and then the veto comes down,” Milich said.
“At anytime, President Clemente or Dr. Ehasz could let me know that they have an issue, and we can talk through it. I’m happy to do so. As of now, including every veto that has happened so far in this Senate session, there is no communication. There is zero communication up until they stamp their veto stamp.”
In response, Clemente stated that the responsibility of drafting and debating legislation is that of the legislative branch.
“It’s not necessarily my job, and I defer to the Senate to create this legislation and create these rules that we, as agents of Student Government, follow,” Clemente said.
After the bill was vetoed by the SGA President, the Senate passed it once more. The bill was then presented to Dr. Maribeth Ehasz, who also vetoed it.
The amendment will face Senate approval again. If it is approved, it will be sent to the desk of University President Dr. John C. Hitt, who will ultimately decide the fate of the bill.