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Thursday, May 23, 2024

The aftermath of the Senate's special meeting, election map to be debated

Petition, counter petitions filed to the UF Supreme Court

SG generic
SG generic

A recent Senate meeting continued Senators' battle over voting districts, which could impact who represents students in the upcoming Fall election.

Over the Summer, both Gator and Change affiliated Senators formed an Ad Hoc Committee on Fall 2023 Apportionment Realignment to refine the way off-campus students will elect their Fall senators. 

With this came the Student Senate Bill 2023-1175 — The Fall 2023 Apportionment Realignment Act (FARA), but the bill could not be heard over the Summer due to the last Senate meeting failing to meet quorum. 

UF Senate President Oscar Santiago Perez (Change-District D) sent an email to current Student Government Senators requesting a special Senate meeting for Aug. 27 at 8:30 p.m. 

Santiago Perez requested the special meeting to conduct the first reading for FARA. 

The meeting was also requested to consider the nominations for the University Committees to consider the Senate delegate, alternate to the Faculty Senate and consider Judicial and Executive Agency Nominations. 

The special meeting was called to order at 8:38 p.m. by Santiago Perez and adjourned at 11 p.m. due to the Reitz Union closing. Quorum was established with 67 senators present. 

The Senate voted against passing the apportionment proposal under first readings during the special meeting. Both parties believe their suggested apportionment maps bring a series of issues. 

Gator said registrar data is inaccurate, which would require 37 off-campus seats to better represent the student body. Change believes Gator’s proposed map would not represent a fair amount of diverse students. 

Students can expect these issues to be further addressed at the Sept. 5 Senate meeting.

Gators’ side 

UF Student Body President Olivia Green, Rules and Ethics Committee Chairwoman Lililana Clark (Gator-District A) and former Minority Party Leader Bronson Allemand (Gator-District A) filed a petition to the UF Supreme Court Aug. 19. 

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The petition states there are 60,743 people listed as students and 10,931 do not have a local ZIP code listed, according to the Fall 2022 data from the Office of the University Registrar. Therefore, 18% of the Student Body population is not able to be accounted for when apportioning seats for the Senate, the petition argues. 

“It is evident that data cannot be used which is this inaccurate, and there must be an alternative model to avoid problems concerning the truth that it is impossible to definitively state that one can have an accurate picture of how many UF students live in specific parts in or outside of Gainesville,” the statement read. 

The petitioners are requesting for the court to grant Ethan Halle, the supervisor of elections, authority to adopt the petitioner’s proposed remedial apportionment of seats for the Fall 2023 Senate election. 

The Ad Hoc Committee on Fall 2023 Apportionment Realignment offered a chance to thoroughly analyze the registrar data and ensure students are properly represented, Clark said. 

“When looking at the data, we found that less than 17,000 students had Gainesville-area addresses,” Clark wrote in an email. “This presented major concerns for the previous A-D District model, and led me to believe that it was no longer an accurate model for the 60,000+ student population.” 

Clark believes Change Party affiliates opted to use over 36,000 addresses outside of the Gainesville area and integrate them into the existing A-D model. She argues for 37 off-campus Senate seats because of the deep flaws in the registrar’s data. 

“While on the Ad-Hoc committee, I learned that I did not have any address listed for Fall 2021 or 2022, despite the fact that I was required to enter it on ONE.UF,” Clark wrote. 

Clark believes keeping the district system would be a major disservice to the student body and completely ignorant of the data, she said.

Change’s side 

Santiago Perez said voting against passing the apportionment proposal has made any Fall 2023 Apportionment map unable to be added to the agenda per Rule XIV 1(e), they wrote in an email.

Santiago Perez believes they are witnessing the death of a representative democracy within Student Government. 

Stephens said they are appalled at the Gator Caucus’s decision and hopes students who are watching will reach out to their representatives from the Gator Caucus to get their act together, deeming it “fascism.”

“FARA would have not only protected our multi-district seat allocation that protects and affirms racial diversity and composition within our legislature,” Stephens wrote in an email. “It also ensures that our on-campus residence halls are allocated properly in accordance with the UF Constitution, the Florida Constitution, and the U.S. Constitution.”

Santiago Perez submitted a counter-petition to the UF Supreme Court, appointing Stephens to argue the case on their behalf. 

“The matter has now been punted off to the Supreme Court,” Santiago Perez wrote. “Which has historically been filled with individuals who are backed by the same Florida Blue Key individuals who support the System Party.” 

Santiago Perez believes it is evident Gator’s data and analysis of the legislative map is both outdated and blinded. They said the petitioners utilized a false record of data that was not utilized in any way during the crafting of FARA. 

“The current proposed map as represented under the Petitioners’ brief violates a multitude of State and internal laws/constitutional provisions, which only further puts our government in the crossfires of severe litigation,” Santiago Perez wrote. 

Contact Vivienne Serrett at vserret@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @vivienneserret.

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