The Associated Students Legislative Council spent the majority of last night’s meeting debating A.S. President Harrison Weber’s veto of the organization’s amended Elections Code.
Weber struck the bill down after the representatives unanimously voted in its favor last week on the grounds that many of its provisions — such as a ban on A.S. officials’ candidate endorsements — violated First Amendment rights. The committee modifies the code every year to ensure fair and equitable campaigning for students interested in running in elections during Spring Quarter.
According to Weber, campus legal counsel Nancy G. Hamill also flagged certain legal ramifications in the new Elections Code that could potentially face legal challenge if the veto is overridden.
“I did not want to do a veto, [and] I believe a veto should not be thrown around like it’s not a big deal,” Weber said. “But things like the Elections Committee exist for a reason — and the veto exists for a reason, and I felt there were some things that really needed to be addressed.”
However, A.S. Elections Committee Chair Courtney Axner said the council supports an override of the veto without further alterations by a two-thirds vote of the council.
“We support him fully, and I think he is a great President, [but] in all honesty we’re just … trying to work the process out,” Axner said.
Additionally, the ban unnecessarily prevents officials from favoring candidates, Weber said.
“The endorsement question does not have any legitimate educational purpose because students are only told what certain officials think of candidates,” Weber said. “Student-Advocate General endorsements are only as good as the credibility behind the endorsement. It is not just like a rubber stamp that says: you got my endorsement, you got the position.”
According to Weber, the endorsements help prevent the election of “an outside person without any regulation [who] can do damage to the office and the services it provides.”
However, Off-Campus Representative Marlene Moreno said biased endorsements may sway voters and create an unequal arena for candidates without connections in the association.
“[The] Student Advocate General should not be able to endorse views because [Weber] has a very idealistic view that a hundred percent of the students will know what a Student General does,” Moreno said. “I have faith in students but people will take titles at face value.”
Weber also requested the committee clarify its ambiguous definition of “defamation” and what constitutes “offensive or inappropriate” language as well as re-evaluate its restriction of the campaigning period to two weeks due to its possible limitation on free speech.
However, Axner said candidates’ unique position as students and politicians requires extra consideration.
“Nationally, presidents can campaign whenever they want, but our concern is that we are students first before we are any elected position,” Axner said. “By [establishing a] limited two-week period of campaigning, it gives students ample time to say ‘I’m a student first, and then the two weeks I’m going to work really hard for the position I want.’”
Representative-at-Large Nate Walker said the Council should take Weber’s recommendations into consideration to avoid placing itself in a legal dispute.
“I trust that if we make rational amendments to the bill that are in the interest in the students, Harrison will not veto it again,” Walker said. “We let the veto go through, we put this in old-business, we make all amendments and add in the Elections Code verbiage.”
The issue remained unresolved as of press time.