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Student Senate elections were held Wednesday.

When the candidates were announced, the election for the 3L senate seemed resolved; it was basically an uncontested election. There were 16 candidates for 15 positions. Voters in that election had no compelling need to express their votes as they would have no impact.
Candidates had no need to rally their supporters, as they were running unopposed.

Unfortunately, some members of our student body knew differently.
They knew this was a contested election, and they knew to rally their supporters. The circulation among this group of a write-in slate ambushed both the unsuspecting candidates and the voters who were unaware of this tactic. Individuals who appeared unlikely to support the aims of the slate were left off the email lists. They went through election day with no knowledge that candidates they would have actively supported desperately needed their vote.

The slate, posted at http://www.columbia.edu/~kbl2102/senate.html and circulated by a number of student groups, read in part as follows:

Endorsement of candidates whose names appear on the ballot is based upon a Senate record and/or candidate statement reflecting solid commitments to building an inclusive, dynamic, and proactive Senate that affirmatively promotes the welfare of all members of our diverse student community. Incumbents (denoted by an asterisk) have explicitly demonstrated such commitment by their work on Senate resolutions such as those in support of guaranteeing summer funding for public interest interns, reforming the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP), increasing faculty diversity, and formalizing institutional opposition to the Solomon Amendment. Where an insufficient number of candidates meeting such criteria have been listed on the ballot, a number of outstanding student leaders known for their activism, efficacy, and engagement on important student concerns have stepped up to run as write-in candidates, and they welcome your support!

The election results indicate that of the 30 candidates chosen (for 30 open seats) by the nebulous promulgators of this slate, 28 were successful. We do not begrudge the newly elected senators (many of whom became aware of this list, as did the rest of us, only yesterday as voting began) their victory, but are extremely disturbed by the discordance between the supposed criteria set forth above and the candidates actually selected. While the candidates are not objectionable, the process of their election was and a new election with an equal playing field is required to legitimate the results.

The resolutions passed by the Student Senate on the issues listed above were by and large non-controversial, and were passed by substantial majorities. There is no apparent correlation between incumbents who supported these resolutions often passionately and those supported by the election guide. The supposedly explicit criteria used for candidate selection were not followed. Among the incumbents not listed were many who have selflessly dedicated themselves to CLS students and to the institution.

Nothing suggests that votes were tampered with; there were no hanging chads, and there is no suggestion that there were any issues with vote counting. However, the last-minute circulation of a full slate of candidates supposedly chosen based on verifiable criteria which, in fact, fail to have basis in any empirical data is hardly less insidious. Political horse-trading by special interests behind the backs of the student body is not the method to create a governing body representing the school as a whole as the senate is mandated to do.

Would the results have been different if the declared candidates and their supporters were given a fair chance in this election? We, the undersigned, want the opportunity to find out. We demand a new election where all candidates are given a fair chance.

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Natalie WeberBy:
Transport and infrastructureIn:
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Columbia Law Students

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