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Sunday, January 23, 2022

UF Student Body officials have decided to overrule amendments made to the UF Constitution that would have allowed online voting, which were passed in Spring.

In a letter to the editor submitted to the Alligator on Monday, UF Student Body President Susan Webster wrote that after meeting with the UF Supreme Court this past weekend, four amendments to the constitution made since 2008 were overturned.

“What the Supreme Court ruled is that since 2008, the Supervisors of Elections have been interpreting election results incorrectly,” Webster wrote, citing an article in the constitution that details the process of amendments to the constitution and how they are passed.

Webster could not be reached as of press time for comment.

The letter did not specify which amendments had been revoked, stating they include amendments about genetic information to the SG non-discrimination policy, numbers of signatures for ballot referendums, online voting and numbers of senate seats.

Abstention votes, in which students essentially choose not to vote on an issue, were not correctly considered, Webster wrote. When included in the votes cast, the four amendments fail.

But according to Robert’s Rules of Order, which SG is governed by, in a situation where a majority or two-thirds vote is required “abstentions have absolutely no effect on the outcome of the vote.”

Article 8, Section 4 of the constitution dictates that the three-fifths approval is required to ratify an amendment. The constitution makes no mention of abstention votes.

Among the overruled amendments was an amendment to allow online voting, which passed last Spring. Petitions by UF students to get online voting amended to the constitution date back to as early as 2005.

The amendment passed with about 68 percent of the vote. The number of students who abstained from voting for this question was not listed. However, more than 10,000 votes were cast for the presidential ticket while about 1,600 fewer were cast for the amendment.

If these 1,600 abstentions were counted as “no” votes, the approval of the amendment drops to about 58 percent, just shy of the 60 needed.

Webster also cited a section of the constitution that requires amendments and their ballot summaries to be printed “in a campus-wide print media publication one week before and on both days of the election.”

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Caroline Nickerson, a member of Global Vote — the group of students who successfully petitioned to put an amendment for online voting on the ballot — is also a sitting member of the Online Voting Ad Hoc Committee.

Nickerson said she did not expect the Supreme Court to revoke the amendment for online voting.

When she worked to get the amendment approved for the Spring ballot, she said she was never told the amendment needed to be published, and if it did need to be, that it should have been done by the SG supervisor of elections. At the time, Erica Baker held this position.

“I’m completely blindsided by this,” Nickerson said.

Austin Young, a member of Global Vote, said the removal of the four amendments surprised him. In order for any amendment or election to be valid, the UF Supervisor of Elections has to validate the election before the Student Senate. This was done after each election, including Spring’s.

Young said the first thing he will do is ask the Senate to put the amendment back into the constitution.

“We’re obviously going to take this to the (UF Supreme) Court,” he said.

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