By Fruma Landa, Editor in Chief
SOY President Akiva Poppers, on behalf of SOY, submitted a petition against the Canvassing Committee (SOY v. Yeshiva University Canvassing Committee) to the Wilf Student Court on April 16. The petition contested the Canvassing Committee’s (CC) signature/paper requirement which “must be submitted by all students who submit ‘Intent to Run’ forms,” before they can appear on the student government ballot, as per section 1, D. in the CC’s document titled “Election Rules Spring 2021.”
“The Canvassing Committee’s requirements for prospective candidates off-campus to write a 750-1500 word paper, and those on-campus to get signatures from 1/3 of the students whom they wish to represent, in addition to being ludicrous and discriminatory in nature, is unconstitutional as well,” shared Poppers with the YU Observer.
SOY believes “that students who submit ‘Intent to Run’ forms but do not fulfill this requirement cannot be disqualified from appearing on the ballot solely on the basis of not fulfilling said requirement.”
Defending the practice, Canvassing Committee Chairman Dovie Soloman stated to the YU Observer: “We feel the signature process weeds out the committed candidates and therefore ensures a better Student Government for the upcoming year. There is no perfect system but as the CC, our job is to try to find the right balance and we are happy with the Court ruling which allows us to continue to do our job and focus on making the election process as smooth as possible.”
On April 22, the court released their unanimous decision: “The requirement to submit a petition with signatures does not violate the [Wilf Campus Undergraduate Student] Constitution. The Canvassing Committee has the ability to set rules for elections so long as those rules do not conflict with the Constitution. All students seeking office in the Wilf Campus Student Government are considered candidates and must adhere to the rules set forth by the Constitution and Canvassing Committee.”
The first argument in the petition states that “The Constitution makes clear that the CC has the right to disqualify candidates who violate election rules, [ … ] students are not candidates until they have been informed that they are eligible for the position they seek to run for.” Poppers explained to the YU Observer that “according to the Canvassing Committee itself, students who submit intent-to-run forms are prospective candidates, and not candidates.” However, the court ruled that the “distinction between ‘prospective candidates’ and ‘candidates’ does not have any basis in the Constitution,” and that candidate refers to a student’s pre-election status.
The second argument brought forth is that “the CC does not have the right to determine candidacy.” Rather, “The CC is charged with ensuring that all candidates meet all qualifications as laid out in the Constitution.” While the CC is responsible for making sure that “students running for positions meet their respective requirements … and … disqualifying candidates who violate election rules or fail to meet the respective Constitutional requirements,” they cannot determine a candidate’s eligibility. Only the student court can determine eligibility, he explains, as upheld in the 2018 Yeshiva Student Union ET AL. V. Canvassing Committee case. The court ruled that in line with the Constitution which states “Following the official meeting, the Canvassing Committee must allow candidates at least five days to submit a petition signed by one-third of the body they wish to represent or five hundred students, whichever is less. Only candidates who submit valid petitions may have their names printed on the ballots,” the signature requirement is constitutional.
Lastly, the petition argues that this requirement is discriminatory, thus violating the Constitutional commitment “to improve the quality of life for all undergraduate male students.” “[O]n-campus prospective candidates ‘must’ submit a petition with 1/3 of students they wish to represent, and off-campus prospective candidates ‘must’ submit a 750-1500 word paper, thereby making it … harder for on-campus students running for positions requiring hundreds of signatures, than it is for off-campus students running for the same positions,” as explained in the petition. The court ruled this to be non-discriminatory as the Canvassing Committee has the right to require a paper petition, instead of a signature petition, from off-campus students to ensure a fair election.
The court’s complete decision can be found here.