SGA, Don’t Fix Broken Bureaucracy With Even More Bureaucracy

Last year’s spring election for College Council and the Student Government Association (SGA) saw chaos and incompetence on behalf of the Elections Board, which ultimately led to the resignations of Elections Board Chair Betty Zhang (20C) and Vice Chair Andy Xu (20C). SGA’s most recent attempt to paper over its deep-seated structural issues is Bill 52sl27, which would establish an unnecessary and redundant Elections Reform Commission “to review the Elections Code and procedures in order to recommend amendments and best practices to the SGA.”

Last year’s Elections Board was flawed and inexperienced. They mistakenly declared a re-vote for the SGA presidential race until then-Speaker of the Legislature and Senior Representative William Palmer (18C) corrected them. In addition, the voting system excluded hundreds of students from voting for their appropriate representative in student government while omitting some candidates’ names from ballots.

While Zhang’s and Xu’s resignations were an appropriate first step in restoring the Emory community’s trust in a board marred by accusations of favoritism and ineptitude, creating the Elections Reform Commission would not fully address these issues. SGA’s recently tabled proposal to establish an Elections Reform Commission would only add another bureaucratic layer that lacks real power to institute needed reforms. Instead, the Elections Board itself should take the initiative to understand the Elections Code and recommend reforms, especially since the Elections Board is the body that directly oversees the elections. Considering elections only occur for a few weeks twice per year, the Board should have ample time to study their own governing documents, negating the need for an additional committee. Reading and thoroughly understanding the Elections Code should be a basic expectation for members of the Board. This knowledge would serve as the foundation for revising the at-times ambiguous Elections Code.

At a Spring 2018 Elections Board hearing concerning a later-dismissed complaint against then-SGA presidential candidate Dwight Ma (17Ox, 19C), Elections Board members showed a clear lack of comprehension of the SGA constitution, with Zhang saying that a complaint to the Board could be withheld from the public, when all SGA documents are public record per the SGA Constitution. Her incorrect statement highlights the need for Elections Board members — who oversee the installation of new student officials — to take more initiative in studying and strictly adhering to documents that govern elections and student government, including but not limited to the Elections Code and the SGA Constitution.

The editorial board is composed of Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Boris Niyonzima, Shreya Pabbaraju and Isaiah Sirois.