On Feb. 18, The Student Government Association held a University-Wide on Microsoft Teams with a corresponding broadcast on Instagram live.
SGA University-wide President Kaelen Thomas began and called the meeting at order promptly at 7:15 p.m.
The meeting began with Senate Clerk Destani Stone calling the roll and realizing quorum. Then, Thomas scrolled through the minutes from the last meeting.
Benjamin Oestericher from Georgetown University and an executive intern for fairvote.org was a special guest invited to speak at the SGA meeting.
After some technical difficulty with screen sharing, he gave his presentation to the SGA senate.
Benjamin Oestericher started by illuminating the issues with single-choice voting, which keeps candidates fearful of “vote-splitting” from running and does not necessarily represent the majority of the electorate.
Ranked voting is a new voting system where the electorate orders or ranks all available candidates from their most favorable candidate to their least.
Suppose no candidate can accumulate enough votes to be declared the victor outright. In that case, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated from the candidate pool. For any voter who selected the eliminated candidate, their second-choice candidate receives the vote from the eliminated candidate.
“The winner represents the majority of voters,” Benjamin Oestericher said.
This type of election can safeguard against drawn-out runoffs as every voter’s ballot counts. If a candidate gets eliminated, then all votes for them are distributed to the voter’s next choice until a candidate receives enough votes to be announced as the winner.
According to Benjamin Oestericher, elections at other colleges see an increase in voter turnout after implementing ranked-choice voting.
Special orders were the next item on the agenda. 91-USO-CL-05: Speaker Pro Tempore Sen. Le introduced a University-Wide Special Order to Seat Members of the Ad Hoc Committee to create a five-year SGA Strategic Plan. Sen. Toure and Sen. Cochran co-chaired the committee, which outlines what SGA needs to do to continue serving the student body for the next five years.
Thomas made it known that this committee would create a document to reference in future administrations.
This piece of legislation passed with a vote of 16 for, zero against and one abstention.
The next item of legislation was 91-USO-CL-06: A University-Wide Special Order to Seat Members of the U-Wide Safety Committee. Le also introduced this order. This legislation’s design is to form a committee to communicate with the Georgia State Police Department concerning students’ safety on campus.
Sens. Guerrero and Cochran co-chaired the committee. This piece of legislation passed with a vote of 16 for, zero against and one abstention.
The Alpharetta campus took time to interact with students to increase engagement with SGA.
The Atlanta campus has not had any stand-alone events for increasing engagement, but the Atlanta campus is trying to work with Spotlight to collaborate on events.
The Clarkson campus participated in the “Welcome Back Breakfast,” but most interested students from Clarkston are international students and cannot join the SGA there due to “policy,” according to advisor Marshonntri Reid-Austin.
There were no representatives from the Decatur or Dunwoody campuses in attendance able to give a report.
The Newton campus has tried to promote the positions within SGA. They have increased involvement with initiatives such as the business etiquette dinner, scheduled for March 25. They are hopeful of bringing in new members shortly.
Finally, Luis Vega, the University-wide and Atlanta Communications Director, spoke about the new logo for SGA, which the assembled senators all reviewed together.
Sen. Ward moved to adopt the new logo, seconded by Cochran. The motion passed with unanimous consent.
A New Voting Method
After SGA took care of all the decorum, excitement gripped the air. The next piece of legislation was the one for which everyone present had been waiting. 91-UWB-02: A University-wide Bill to Change the Voting Method in SGA Elections to Ranked Choice. Benjamin Oestericher’s earlier presentation directly influenced this bill.
This legislation affects how SGA will hold elections across all of Georgia State’s campuses. This bill, introduced by Sen. Bivins, would take effect in the next administration.
There were some concerns regarding how to teach students about the voting process, but since the legislation is a bill and not a constitutional referendum, the student body would not need to vote on the bill.
Bylaws committee led by Ward announced that they did not review this legislation, but they still support it.
They called a vote, and in a historical motion, SGA adopted ranked-choice voting for Georgia State elections.
“I think this a time for jubilation, celebration… You all have just made history,” Thomas said, addressing the Senate.
A Loss of Quorum
After such a momentous vote, the next piece of legislation was 91-UWB-03: A University-Wide Bill to Create an Online Liaison Position. The bill means to give voice to all the students classified as online students who, given the current laws, have no power to vote. Bivins started a discussion, expressing reticence for this bill.
“This will change SGA a lot, so I really want to know what everybody else has to say about the bill because I’m kinda conflicted, I don’t know how I really feel about the bill,” Bivins said.
Due to the loss of quorum, they held no more votes toward new legislation.
The meeting came to an end in chaos. A ricocheting status of quorum made all further business impossible to continue. Jokes were abounding, and Thomas announced Senator Mai to be “out of order.”
By the end of the meeting, frustrations were high, with many sighing and groaning at announced business.
Despite all the technical issues and loss of quorum, this meeting of the University-wide SGA changed how the Georgia State elections fundamentally worked. They were also able to staff two committees that will significantly affect how the student body interacts with other Georgia State entities.