Electronic voting bill fails to pass in Senate for second time

Alex Gravlee, Contributing Writer

The Student Government Association shot down a bill that would require electronic voting using Microsoft Forms in the Senate on March 9. 

This is the third time the bill, which would have gone into effect in the 28th Senate, appeared on the Senate floor and is the second time it was voted down. The initial vote on March 2 was nullified after Tyler Tannehill, the author of the bill, said he was not invited to a Rules Committee meeting to discuss his bill.  

Tannehill contacted Taryn Geiger, the speaker of the Senate, at 5:28 p.m., an hour before the Senate session, to notify her that he did not receive a notification of the Rules Committee’s meeting. He then requested that the bill come before the Senate another time.  

Tannehill said the bill would have increased transparency by tracking every senator’s vote for pieces of legislation and posting them on the SGA website. However, there is no section in the bill that mandates this practice.


Rules Committee’s Concerns 

The Rules Committee initially gave the bill an unfavorable recommendation earlier that week, saying that electronic voting would slow down Senate meetings if senators had to vote every time there was a motion or secondary motion, not just final votes.  

It was subsequently amended after it failed the first time to specify that senators would only vote electronically on final votes for legislation. However, Jack Rudder, the Rules Committee chair, gave four opinions for an unfavorable recommendation: 

  1. There is nothing in the bill that would increase transparency. 
  2. The language does not consider the Senate’s ability to speed up bills by deciding to immediately consider them instead of sending them to committees. 
  3. There is no security in Microsoft Forms preventing people outside the Senate from submitting their votes for legislation.  
  4. The bill would have been passed too close to the 28th Senate, which convenes in April, giving no time for the bill to be implemented and explained.  

Tannehill rebutted Rudder’s arguments by saying that he has faith that the SGA would post the voting records to the SGA website, thus increasing transparency. He added that the University provides Microsoft forms, much like Word and Excel, making it an intended, secure resource for students to use.  

After the bill was voted down, the author said that he hopes future electronic voting bills will be passed alongside a change in the SGA Code of Laws that updates the Webmaster’s duties to include posting senators’ voting records.  


Senators’ Concerns 

Many senators echoed the Rules Committees concerns, adding that the system for recording proxy votes, which requires notifying the secretary in advance, does not make sense because many senators secure their proxies on short notice.  

Arts and Sciences Senator Eleanor Wiltanger added that the secretary of the Senate, who the bill charges with creating voting forms, would be overburdened by this extra duty. 

“Secretary [Olivia] Frazier works really hard to make the dockets and send them out,” Wiltanger said. “I don’t think any of us have a great idea of how long that takes her. I think that this could just add an unnecessary element because it seems like it’s just not worth it.” 

After the session, Tannehill said a possible revision to address Wiltanger’s concern would be to create a new position that is dedicated to the creating forms for each Senate session to help “distribute that burden.”  


What comes next?  

Tannehill said the Machine caused the bill to fail, exaggerating their talking points like the difficulty of implementing Microsoft Forms.  

The Machine is a supposed underground Greek secret society that encompasses multiple Greek organizations. It has been accused of influencing the SGA voting process by telling its members how to vote. Only one person in recent years, former SGA President Jared Hunter, claimed to be a member of the Machine.  

The author said that, even though he will not be returning for another term, he believes the issue of electronic voting will continue to build up in the 28th Senate.  

“Next time, it’s going to be so … fleshed out that really, any exaggerations and con speeches made, any Machine talking points, the student body will clearly see that the Machine doesn’t want to budge on this and allow more accountability,” Tannehill said.