ASUC committee discusses budget behind proposed election reform bill

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The ASUC proposals for the next year’s budget and revised election bylaws may be in conflict after a meeting of the ASUC Senate’s Governance and Internal Affairs Committee on Monday night, a difference the senate will try to reconcile at its Wednesday night meeting.

The Governance and Internal Affairs Committee removed two amendments — which were made to align it with new budget cuts to the elections council — from the Elections Act and passed the bill on to the senate. The bill, a joint project between the Governance and Internal Affairs Committee and the Finance Committee, changes the current election bylaws and is a compilation of the work on election reform from this past year.

The ASUC Senate Finance Committee has proposed to cut the elections budget from $20,000 to $8,450, which prompted senate vice chair and attorney general-designate Alek Klimek, the primary sponsor of the bill, to add in the two amendments.

In the past, two Election Tech coordinators were hired to work with the online voting system and the elections website, and were each paid a $1,000 stipend. The new proposed budget cut these positions, so Klimek added an amendment to the bill that made this the responsibility of the Elections Council chair, Elections Council assistant chair and the Chief Technology Officer, a new position that will begin next year.

The Governance and Internal Affairs Committee removed the part of the amendment which made the online polling system partly the responsibility of the Chief Technology Officer, but kept it as the responsibility of the Elections Council chair and assistant chair.

Senators were concerned that the CTO would not have the time to work on the tabulations system should it need to be recoded in the future. Attorney General Natalja Karniouchina was also worried that the position could become partisan in the future, compromising the security of the results.

At the Wednesday night senate meeting, the Governance and Internal Affairs committee plans ask the Finance Committee to increase the Elections Council budget by $1,000 or $750 in order to provide stipends for the election tech coordinators.

The Elections Council also usually employs poll workers, who are paid around $10 per hour to work at three different polling stations around campus.

The Finance Committee suggested that there be only one polling station, staffed by members of the Elections Council, who would not get paid. Klimek felt that this would distract from their other responsibilities.

Klimek changed the bill in response to the budget cuts to require only one polling station in either of the three current locations, although the Elections Council could add more stations at their discretion. The Governance and Internal Affairs Committee voted unanimously to reverse this change, and keep the requirement for three polling stations.

The committee plans to ask the Finance Committee for more funds to be allocated to the Elections Council so three stations could stay open. They also plan to work with the ASUC Internship Decal to staff the stations with unpaid interns.

“(The Finance Committee) will come at us strongly so we need to make sure we come back stronger and keep the three polling locations,” said CalSERVE Senator Lavanya Jawaharlal at the meeting.

At its meeting Wednesday night, the senate will discuss the Elections Act and the 2015-16 proposed budget, and work to resolve the two committees’ differing positions.

“If both the Elections Act and the budget pass as written, Elections Council will be required to do something it doesn’t have funding for,” Klimek said in an email.

Sonja Hutson covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson.