A routine election for GUSA senate speaker drew the ire of the GUSA Election Commission on Sunday, when GUSASenator Emily Siegler (SFS ’14) defeated Vice Speaker Sam Greco (SFS ’15) and two other candidates.
Greco had failed to receive a majority in a confirmation vote to rise from vice speaker to speaker, drawing 13 no’s, nine yes’s and two abstentions, leading to an immediate election for the new speaker.
The open election speaker vote was contested by Siegler, Greco, Senator Abbey McNaughton (COL ’16) and Senator Robert Shepherd (MSB ’15). Siegler received 10 votes and Shepherd received eight, while Greco and McNaughtonreceived three apiece, leading to their automatic elimination. The six votes were then redistributed toSiegler, leading to her final tally of 16 to Shepherd’s eight.
The confirmation vote and subsequent election were called after former speaker George Spyropoulos (COL ’14) resigned Dec. 8, and both come at a time when GUSAmembers are quietly mobilizing to begin campaigns for the executive slot in the coming weeks.
However, Section 2.05 of the GUSA bylaws states that the role of the vice speaker is to assume the role of speaker after the speaker resigns or is removed, and does not mention the necessity of a confirmation vote.
GUSA Vice President Adam Ramadan (SFS ’14), who presided over the meeting, emphasized that the confirmation vote, while not mentioned in the bylaws, is something that is upheld as precedent and took place last year with the transition from current GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) to former speaker Zach Singer (SFS ’15), who preceded Spyropoulos.
“My understanding is that the precedent was set over the past couple of years where there would be a confirmation vote. Last year for example, when Nate resigned, Zach succeeded Nate but was not confirmed until the confirmation vote by the entire GUSA senate,” Ramadan said.
Siegler, who commented during the meeting that oral traditions are just as legitimate as those written in constitutions, said she drew this insight from knowledge of legal procedures.
“My statement yesterday was that in court situations, legal precedents have been established in similar situations,” Siegler said. “I wasn’t saying that the confirmation vote should be held over the bylaws.”
“If people truly had a problem with this, I believe there were many appropriate times to speak those concerns, and it was rather silent on those fronts,” Senator Seamus Guerin (COL ’16) said.
Guerin said that a confirmation vote is an important indicator of how a new speaker will be received in the senate.
“The speaker serves all of the senate, and all of the senators individually, and to have their confidence and their confirmation is important. Their support is important for the success of the position,” Guerin said.
However, the Election Commission challenged the legitimacy of the procedure.
“The Election Commission was not formally involved in the administration of this election, nor do we fully endorse its validity,” GUSA Election Commissioner Ethan Chess (COL ’14) wrote in an email. “The GUSA bylaws state that the vice speaker becomes speaker upon the resignation of the outgoing speaker. There is fairly little grey area as far as that is concerned. While I recognize that in the past confirmation votes have been taken in this same circumstance, they were, by my reading of the bylaws, not necessary for the speaker to carry out his or her duties.”
If the procedure backed by Chess were to be followed, in order for Siegler to assume the speakership, Greco would have had to automatically assume the speakership, at which point the senate would have been required to remove him from that role, if so desired. Removal requires a unanimous vote of the Ways and Means Committee, as well as a subsequent two-thirds vote in the senate.
However, Chess said that this procedure would still bring up questions.
“To remove [Greco] from his position based on the results of a vote that would be ambiguous at best, and invalid at worst cannot be good for the health of elections throughout GUSA,” Chess wrote. “I suspect this issue will merit some consideration from the Constitutional Council going forward and they will — after careful deliberation — make a final [adjudication] on the matter.”
The confirmation vote that took place Sunday was unusual, according to Greco.
“That whole confirmation procedure, it took over an hour. Nothing like that has ever happened before,” Greco said. “In my experience, I’m almost 100 percent positive that the vice president last year didn’t come in when this happened. I know there was no questioning, debating, leaving the room. It was nothing to the degree that they proceeded with [Sunday] night. That was irregular.”
Despite the confusion, senators said they look forward to working with Siegler.
“I couldn’t be more excited. I think she’s fresh face, and a fresh face goes a long way. I think that having a fresh face and a valuable contributor in the GUSA Senate will be awesome in leadership, and I think that she presents many skills that would serve her excellently in leading us,” Senator Chris Fisk (COL ’17) said.
Greco will remain in his position as vice speaker.