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Monday, January 30, 2023

Senate stalls online voting amendment, passes Club Q shooting resolution

Meeting ended abruptly at closure of Reitz Union

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The Nov. 29 Student Senate meeting saw nearly three-and-a-half hours of misunderstandings over legislative processes, which carried to the meeting’s premature end at 11 p.m. when the Reitz Union closed for the night.

The major bill in question would allow students to vote on whether they’d prefer an remote online voting option as well as in-person ones for future Student Government elections. If passed by Senate, the amendment would be put on the Spring 2023 SG ballot, where students would vote on whether to allow remote voting for the following election.

Senate heard several rounds of debate on the amendment. Those speaking in dissent — all members of the Gator caucus — argued online voting brought cybersecurity concerns. Those speaking in support — from the Change caucus — reassured that online voting would be secure and advocated for its accessibility to disabled and faraway off-campus students.

Realizing the bill wouldn’t pass without bipartisan support, Sen. Oscar Santiago Perez (Change-District D), the bill’s co-author, attempted to push debate to the following meeting, a motion that was voted down by the general Senate. He then attempted to withdraw the bill from consideration, finding temporary success. 

“Both sides seem to have strong opinions on this matter,” Santiago Perez said. “Both sides should be allowed to come together and discuss these matters. And inside Senate didn't seem very conducive to me.”

Santiago Perez withdrew the bill so it wouldn’t die during this legislative cycle, he said. His focus would have been to speak with Gator senators outside the chamber to compromise on the bill’s language before reintroducing it for a vote, he added.

Senate moved on to pass a resolution memorializing the lives lost at a shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado. The resolution included a contentious amendment acknowledging the existence of hate crimes on campus, which went through debate before being passed as well.

The focus then returned to the online voting bill when Senate President Olivia Green (Gator-District A), after reviewing Senate rules and procedures, told Santiago Perez they could not withdraw the bill. 

In an effort to keep the bill from failing, Sen. Mohammed Faisal (Change-District D) moved to recommit the bill as a whole, which would turn the Senate into the Judiciary Committee by forcing the group to re-read the bill, make corrections and re-approve it before a vote. Recommitting would allow for the corrections, rewording and specificity to be added to the bill.

In a unanimous vote, the motion to recommit passed. However, several senators who abstained from voting did so without knowing what the motion meant. Upon finding out its implications, senators called for the vote to be conducted again with new information.

But it was too late: Change senators who supported the motion refused to allow a new vote, pointing out the recommitting process had already begun. The process to carry out the motion was cut short at 11 p.m. when the Reitz Union closed and the meeting was adjourned.

Green thought the motion was unfair to new senators, she said, who wouldn’t have time to consult their law dictionaries before voting. Green also pointed out the time spent deciphering new procedures could have been spent looking at legislation.

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“I think it is not only harming our Senate body in the past, present, and future, but I think it's harming our students,” Green said. “We are not able to do the stuff that we have been setting out to do.”

Minority party leader Faith Corbett (Change-District C) noted the Judiciary Committee, composed entirely of Gator senators, passed the bill unanimously, which prompted her confusion over why the caucus fought it in Senate.

Corbett saw the motion to recommit as an opportunity to see the bill through before the end of the legislative session, she said, and refuted Green’s claim that Change lacked respect in Senate. 

“To have claims of us being disruptive to have claims of us preventing business at hand is not true,” Corbett said. “What we did tonight was make sure that every outlet, every option and every initiative to put online voting on the ballot in Spring is going to be met.”

Contact Alissa at agary@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @AlissaGary1.

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Alissa Gary

Alissa Gary is a journalism freshman and university administration reporter at The Alligator. Aside from writing, she loves spending time with her cats, catching up on Jeopardy, and seeing the latest movies.


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