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A gavel rests on the table before a meeting of the UGA SGA Senate in Athens, Georgia, on Tuesday, October 6, 2015. (Photo/Casey Sykes, csykes95@uga.edu)

The University of Georgia Student Government Association Senate voted to uphold a ruling by the UGA Supreme Court declaring it unconstitutional for the Senate to overturn Supreme Court decisions related to elections during election season.

As a direct result of this decision, another ruling preventing the Redvolution ticket from running in the election this March, cannot be appealed.

This means the Redvolution ticket, with Hunter Kelly for president, Alyssa Benett for vice president, and Mustafa Faroon for treasurer, will be unable to run for office in this election.

The Issue

According to the original sanction reports, the issue initially emerged when two of the three executive tickets failed to complete their paperwork by the assigned deadline of midnight on Feb. 13.  

The Rise ticket, with Ammishaddai Grand-Jean for president, Ripken Gorman for vice president, and Brooke Carter for treasurer, failed to file petitions of signatures for both Grand-Jean and Gorman. Redvolution’s Faroon failed to submit his application.

For these infractions, both tickets were sanctioned by the Elections Committee, with each losing 24 hours of active campaigning, also according to the reports.

Ignite, with Cameron Keen for president, Roya Naghepour for vice president, and Kal Golde for treasurer, was the only ticket who completed all their paperwork by the assigned deadline.

Ignite later appealed the Elections Committee’s decision to the Supreme Court.

The cases were divided into Rise and Redvolution, and both were heard and decided on Feb. 23.

Both opinions include language stating that Ignite sought to have the tickets removed from the election.

“The plaintiff sought to have [Redvolution] dissolved as they believed the Ticket to not be legitimate,” the first opinion reads.

The Supreme Court upheld the Elections Committee’s original decision regarding Rise.

Presiding Chief Justice Margaret Shin wrote the opinion of the court, “The judgement of the Supreme Court is that Elections Committee adhered to the guiding principles and procedures of the Elections Code. As such, the sanction against the Rise Executive Ticket fell within the Elections Committee’s purview and will remain in place.”

However, the Supreme Court overturned the Committee’s decision for Redvolution.

Chief Justice William Quarterman wrote for the court, “We, the Supreme Court consider the sanction of the Elections Committee against the Redvolution Executive Ticket to be null and void. Therefore, the ruling of the Supreme Court is that the Redvolution Executive Ticket is not recognized as an official Executive ticket and is unable to participate in the 2017 Student Body Elections.”

When asked for comment, Maddie Miller, the chair of the Elections Committee said, “I personally felt a sanction would be the more appropriate response to the problem at hand, but I made my argument and respect the Supreme Court's right to make that decision even though it wasn't what I would've decided.”

Tuesday’s Decision

Normally, the SGA constitution allows the senate to overturn a decision of the Supreme Court by a two-thirds vote.

The decision at question Tuesday was a third unanimous Supreme Court decision that stated that the senate did not have this constitutional authority to overturn decisions related to elections, during elections.

This decision reads, “When matters are brought to the Supreme Court concerning elections during an election, it creates a conflict of interest for all current Senators, especially those who are running for an elected position. … We the Supreme Court, find that those senators who are running for an elected position in the Student Government Association of the University of Georgia are ineligible to hear the appeal.”

This decision does not technically pertain to elections but rather to procedure, and therefore was eligible to be appealed under the SGA constitution and the ruling itself.

Chief of Staff Elizabeth Davis, emphasized that the question at hand was, “Is it constitutional for the senate to vote to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on the appeal of the Elections Committee’s initial ruling?”

Both Davis and the justices in attendance said multiple times that the Senate was not deciding on which tickets should run, but instead whether it was constitutional for the Senate to hear Redvolution’s appeal.

Had the Senate come to the two-thirds consensus necessary to overturn the Supreme Court, they would have gone on to hear that second appeal.

The issue was debated at length, with the arguments coalescing around two ideas.

Redvolution’s argument centered around their right to be heard.

“If we’re not allowing this appeal, what we’re saying is that a campaign can be banned from running for SGA without any chance to defend themselves,” said Gabriel Finger, campaign manager for Redvolution and senator.

Those in favor of the Court’s decision, argued that it set a dangerous precedent, and further that the conflict of interest was a very real issue.

“If the Senate votes in favor of this, we are essentially saying that as long as any ticket has a two-thirds majority of support in Senate, they can do whatever they want with zero consequences,” said Max Harris, a member of Freshman board.

The Chief Justice was the final speaker before debate was closed. He said, “We are specifically talking about whether it is constitutional, and ethical, for you all to be making decisions about elections during elections that will affect elections.”

The final vote came in at eight ayes, 25 nays, and four abstentions.

Grand Jean elected not to comment, but Keen said, “I fully support the decision of the Supreme Court. We will continue to be focused and dedicated to our own campaign and the concerns of the student body.”

In response to the decision, Finger said, “The campaign will be pursuing all avenues to rectify the situation.”

For his part, Kelly said of the decision, “God works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.”

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