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Friday, May 17, 2024
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The UF Supreme Court ruled 4-1 in favor of a districting map that consists of 37 at-large seats with some dorm seats being altered — making the Fall 2023 election a winner takes all.

The court met Sept. 5 to hear the petition filed by Gator Party affiliated members about the Fall 2023 Apportionment map, which could impact who represents students in the upcoming Fall election.

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) submitted the initial petition. 

UF Senate President Oscar Santiago Perez (Change-District D) submitted a counter-petition to the UF Supreme Court, appointing Judiciary Chairperson Jonathan C. Stephens (Change-District D) to argue the case on their behalf.

Another counter-petition was submitted to the court by former Communist Party Leader Alfredo Ortiz.

Murphree will have one representing seat, and Keys and Springs Residential Complex will be combined into one seat.

Acting Chief Justice Julia Van De Bogart called the meeting to order at 6:01 p.m. and ended at around 7:30 p.m. due to further deliberations. Quorum was established with five judges present.  

Petitioners’ argument 

Allemand contended in his opening statement UF’s registrar data was not accurate and could not properly represent the student body. 

He brought up Clark, who resides in her representing district, but UF registrar data didn’t accurately reflect her location for Fall 2021 or 2022. 

Allemand cited parts of the submitted petition, which stated 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. 

The data showed 18% of the Student Body population wasn't accounted for when apportioning seats for the Senate, the petition argues. 

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“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.

Allemand addressed some of the concerns surrounding minority groups not being represented with their map model, emphasizing their map would be able to include more of the student body over the counter-petitioners. 

Senate president’s counter-petition argument 

Santiago Perez’s case was argued on behalf of Stephens, who contended the petitioner’s map would harm diverse groups of students and minorities by inadequately representing them. 

“The actions of the petitioner's map, after clear analysis of the fact pattern, demonstrates a level of gross negligence of public and professional duty that could by any reasonable analysis be deemed intentional,” the counter petition read. 

Only one judge voted in favor of Santiago Perez’s counter petition. 

During the deliberation period, several judges said  they wished for Gator and Change Party members to have been able to work together during the Summer to form a map in a timely manner. 

Stephens emphasized the Judiciary Committee failed to meet quorum nearly the entire Summer, which led to forming an Ad-Hoc Apportionment committee in an attempt to create a better map.

Stephens believes the petitioner's map has harmed minority voices and was created to secure political power within Student Government. 

Counter-petitioner Ortiz’s argument 

Ortiz contended that a better alternative would be a mixed-member proportional representation map — the court did not vote in favor of his alternative.

“I presented the Court with an opportunity to guarantee students proportional representation and avoid the appearance of a power grab. Unfortunately, the Court declined,” Ortiz wrote. “In doing so, the Court left it up to the voters to decide whether or not Senators should be punished for preventing the peaceful transfer of power between parties.” 

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

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Vivienne Serret

Vivienne Serret is a UF journalism and criminology senior, reporting for The Alligator's university desk as the student government reporter and managing editor for The Florida Political Review. She loves debating, lifting at the gym and singing.


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