Student Government SG Generic

Students who voted for remote access online voting as freshmen in 2016 still won’t be able to before they graduate this Spring.

The UF Student Government Supreme Court unanimously decided during a meeting Thursday to uphold its 2016 decision to allow abstentions — a vote of neither yes or no — to count as a “no” vote on SG election ballot items.

This affirmation delays amendments that would have been implemented, including remote access online voting.

The UF SG Supreme Court includes Chief Justice Erica Baker and justices David Walsh, Chris Boyett and Allie Watson.

The petition regarding the counting of abstentions was filed by Michael Russel and Keith Saint on March 27. This petition asked the Court to reconsider how abstentions are counted to be consistent with Florida law.

“As future law professionals heading into promising careers, will you put your name down as someone that believes that a court can choose to follow or ignore parts of its own governing body’s Constitution?” Russel asked the Court during the hearing.

Remote access online voting was passed as an amendment with 6,047 votes in favor and 2,751 votes against in the UF Spring 2016 election. About 1,900 students who voted in the Spring 2016 election did not vote either way on the issue.

An amendment must be passed by a three-fifths vote to be added to the constitution, according to the Student Body Constitution.

The UF SG Supreme Court decided on June 25, 2016, that all votes cast in an election should count when considering the three-fifths threshold. This interpretation came from the sentence: “those voting in the spring general election.”

Several amendments previously passed were canceled retroactively including remote access online voting in 2016 and an updated anti-discrimination policy that would include genetic information under the protections in 2014.

Russel argued before the Court that UF SG elections were not in compliance with Florida Statute Title IX Ch. 97.021, which states that abstentions are not counted in the total vote count as they are “undervotes.” Elections should follow this statute because of an article in the UF SG Constitution’s that states that UF SG is subordinate to Florida law, Russel said.

Boyett said there was no discrepancy between the 2016 decision and how the state of Florida governs its elections.

“It’s so hard to draw a line unless I see a direct conflict,” Boyett said.

The final decision will be written by Boyett and will be released in the next few weeks.

Hannah Beatty is a third-year journalism major and sociology minor from Jacksonville, Florida. She began at the Alligator in the fall of 2018 as a general assignment staff writer and now serves as the student government beat reporter.