The UC Santa Barbara Associated Students Judicial Council lifted the injunction placed on the results of the winter quarter special election to fill the internal vice president position on Feb 9. The Elections Board announced at 5 p.m. Feb 10 that third-year economics and communication double major Sydney Kupsh was elected, with 51.68% or 769 votes.
The Judicial Council ruled on Feb. 9 in favor of the respondent, Hailey Stankiewicz and the 73rd Associated Students (A.S.) Senate. The petitioner, A.S. Senator Sohum Kalia, argued the special election was unconstitutional because the Senate did not officially deem the internal vice president (IVP) position vacant.
Third-year political science major Coleton Cristiani came in second to Kupsh with 33.8% or 503 votes, and third-year communication major Gabrielle Diaz received 14.52% or 216 votes. The total voter turnout was 7.15%.
The special election was initiated by fourth-year political science major and A.S. President Gurleen Pabla via a Fall Quarter 2022 executive order removing former Internal Vice President Bee Schaefer — following Schaefer’s striking of the position citing anti-Black harassment within A.S. — and deeming the position vacant. Schaefer maintains she has not resigned.
The Judicial Council’s final ruling found that “without the Internal Vice President formally convening meetings, the Senate could not declare the vacancy by traditional means,” and validated the original executive order.
“The executive order and subsequent Senate actions to initiate a Special Election were constitutionally permissible as a means to restore function to the Association. We therefore direct that the injunction on the results of the Winter Special election be lifted,” a statement from the Judicial Council read.
The statement additionally recommends the Senate to develop legislation clarifying when and how executive orders can be implemented, noting “the immense ambiguity on executive orders that exists in the Legal Code.”
Pabla said legislatively defining the authority of executive orders presents limitations to addressing future crises.
“There is a reason these powers are implied. To legislatively define them immediately creates limits that we do not have the capacity to understand,” Pabla said in a statement to the Nexus. “I have a full capacity of understanding the power of the executive office, and I have historically used this power only when absolutely necessary. ”
Interim IVP Hailey Stankiewicz said she was proud to lead the Senate in a temporary capacity but ultimately believes that students should be represented by officials they voted for.
“While I was honored to be able to serve the association and help stabilize the legislative branch in the interim, it was thusly for an interim, and made an interim period for a reason,” Stankiewicz said in a statement to the Nexus. “This reason is that the UCSB student body has a due right to elect their internal Vice President.”
She also credited Pabla in ensuring that a special election took place to fill the vacancy, and emphasized the need for constituents’ input in electing A.S. officials.
“This is credited largely to the diligence of the AS President Pabla to ensure a special election does take place,” Stankiewicz said. “She noted that the student body deserves the right to elect their IVP as a representative which is why she ensured my chairship of the senate would be temporary.”
Addressing widespread criticism of a lack of publicity and transparency surrounding the election, Stankiewicz — who served as respondent in Kalia v. Stankiewicz on behalf of Associated Students — said there has been “meaningful dialogue” surrounding the issue.
“I do believe grace should be given to elections board with regards to publicizing the election, especially, considering the unprecedented nature of what has led to the special election,” Stankiewicz said in a statement to the Nexus.
[UPDATE: 2/11/2023, 1:39 p.m.] This article has been updated with a statement from A.S. President Gurleen Pabla.