In a victory for transparency in student government, the Undergraduate Student Government passed a resolution with a vote of 22 to 18, nullifying senators’ ability to request secret ballot voting.
“People really deserve to know how their representatives vote on their behalf,” said USG President Micah Kamrass, a fourth-year in political science and economics.
USG Sen. Radhika Kedia, a fourth-year in actuarial science, introduced Resolution 43-R-58. Kedia, who represents mathematics and physical sciences in the USG Senate, cited transparency in voting at the state and legislative level.
Prior to the passage of the legislation, if a member of the Senate requested the individual votes be kept private, the votes of all members were kept private. The legislation establishes that USG senators’ votes must be made public unless the USG constitution and bylaws call for closed-door voting.
The resolution would replace secret ballot with roll call as the highest order of voting in the USG Senate.
One concern brought up was the alphabet effect, in which senators with last names toward the end of the alphabet might be influenced, consciously or subconsciously, to vote a certain way if the majority of the Senate had already voted that way.
Sen. Niraj Antani, representing the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, cited the Library of Congress definition of a roll-call vote. Antani explained how the alphabet effect could be overcome if Senators wrote their votes on paper with their names, and those votes were read aloud.
USG senate speaker Andrew Mikac, a fourth-year in economics and English, said he was unsure of the measure, and there is more to the issue than meets the eye. He also said a situation could arise in the future where secret ballots might be necessary to protect senators from potential repercussions.
Senators argued the strengths and weaknesses of the resolution and proposed alternatives they said they would introduce in order to erode support for 43-R-58.
Kamrass said the former rules for vote secrecy came from Robert’s Rules of Order, which says the highest order of vote is secret ballot.
Kamrass and USG press secretary Amanda Emerson, a third-year in public policy and strategic communications, used the secret ballot vote about discrimination in campus organizations as an example. Kamrass and Emerson said they saw this as the turning point, and a change needed to occur.
Kamrass said secret ballots would still be allowed for internal matters, such as replacing a senator who had tendered a resignation or electing the speaker of the Senate.
“People should have the courage in their convictions to put their name next to their beliefs,” Kamrass said. “I think that with the controversial things, it’s even more important that people put their name next to how they feel because those are the things that our constituents may care most about.”