By Meghan Brink with reporting from Hannah Joseph and Jack Besterman
A pending litigation filed by independent students rests over the Student Association concerning an executive order that altered the Fall 2021 General Election timeline. Awaiting a decision on the suit, the SA Supreme Court placed a temporary injunction on the election, suspending all elections related activities.
News of the pending lawsuit was first announced by Chairman Nick Chin in his opening remarks in Wednesday's SA Senate meeting.
According to Chin, the complainants are bringing a question of legitimacy over the executive order, which announced on Sept. 10 that the self nomination period for candidates would be reopened and altered the timeline for the election.
In this election, 27 senator positions are up for grabs. The original timeline was to proceed as follows: all candidates would self-nominate via My Involvement between the dates of Aug. 20 and Sept. 3. From there, all candidates would have to attend a mandatory candidates meeting, which was originally scheduled for Sept. 8. After the conclusion of this meeting, according to SA bylaws, candidates could then begin campaigning. In addition, during the self-nomination period, all candidates must attend at least one SA Senate meeting.
On Aug. 31, the SA Elections Commission announced via Instagram that the Executive Branch had signed an Executive Order that waived the requirement for candidates running in the fall election to attend an SA Senate meeting to be eligible on the ballot, overriding the bylaw.
The announcement said that the reason behind this decision was that candidates would only have one opportunity to attend an SA Senate meeting, referring to the Sept. 1 meeting of the Senate that occurred during the original self-nomination period.
The executive order that is currently in question in the pending litigation was issued just over a week later on Sept. 10. The order reopened the self-nomination period to Sept. 10 - 14, with the mandatory candidates meeting scheduled for Sept. 15, and campaigning to begin on Sept. 16. Voting under this executive order was scheduled to begin on Sept. 20 and conclude on Sept. 22.
According to Justice Ali Popeck, who spoke on the lawsuit at yesterday's SA Senate meeting, the SA Supreme Court received a petition from independent students on Sept. 11 regarding the executive order. The Court voted 4-0 to hear the case, and issued an injunction on the election until the case could be heard. The injunction was announced to the student body yesterday via the EC Instagram account, which did not reference the lawsuit.
“The chair must take some decisions that cannot wait for a Senate meeting,” Chairman Chin said on Wednesday, referring to the executive order. “The leadership team did nothing wrong in this executive order.”
A motion to dismiss the case has been filed, according to Justice Popeck. Chairman Chin said that this motion to dismiss was filed by himself and the comptroller, Molly Doelean.
“We hope that we will get this case dismissed and that voting will start on Monday,” said Chairman Chin. “We need to move the Senate forward.”
On the motion, Justice Popeck said, “I have been in close communication with Election Commission Chairwomen Catherine Devaney regarding this issue and have been ensured that no matter what the court decides they are committed to having an election that is fair and impartial.”
“The Executive Order was legal, and I was proud to sign it. This lawsuit is baseless, and grounded in no facts,” Chairman Chin said in an official comment to the ASP. “I hope the Supreme Court lifts the injunctions on the elections and the operations of SA can continue.”
The Elections Commission, and President Abdullah Goudiaby did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the pending litigation.