Senate rejects legislation to require senator’s votes be individually tracked

Kayla Solino | @kaylasolino, Staff Reporter

Graduate Student Government Association Sen. Justin McCleskey proposed a bill to amend the Senate rules to require roll call votes for every legislation proposed and voted on during Senate sessions. 

The bill, which was sponsored by five senators and Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lauren Gilonske, did not pass in the Senate, with only around three verbal “yeas.” 

The bill would require a roll call for every Senate vote in an attempt to increase transparency, and would distribute results to media outlets like The Crimson White and WVUA 23 upon request. McCleskey said roll call votes help identify how senators vote and which senators abstain.

The SGA Senate has traditionally used an audible vote, where senators vote with a “yea” or “nay.” Senators may petition for alternate forms of voting when relevant. Roll call votes require each senator to vote one at a time as their name is called, so all senators’ votes are recorded.

McCleskey was surprised at the legislation’s failure. 

“I’m actually pretty impressed that this one didn’t go through,” he said. “I showed that this bill has a ton of major advantages to transparency and can really improve the democratic process. And there really wasn’t any debate against that, which is even more concerning, the fact that they can vote it down and accept at the same time that it’s detrimental to the democratic process.” 

McCleskey said roll call voting makes online viewing of Senate sessions easier to follow and streamlines the process for senators to understand. He said this method reflects what larger government systems do and additionally maintains transparency. 

Many senators argued that an obligatory roll call vote would waste time during Senate meetings, but McCleskey said the system would save time in the long run, since universal roll call votes would be the default and therefore would not require a petitioning process to hold one. 

College of Arts and Sciences Sen. John Dodd supported the legislation.  

“If we are afraid to show how we vote to our constituents on certain legislations, then we shouldn’t be senators,” Dodd said during the session. 

Sen. Cameron Doyle said a default roll call vote would be unnecessary. 

“I just really think this is unnecessary when we already do have the parliamentary procedure in place to request a roll call vote when it is necessary,” Doyle said. “I think the majority of the time it is not necessary. We all see how often we vote unanimously on legislation, so there’s no reason to waste all of our time.” 

Currently, a roll call vote can be motioned for by a senator before voting starts as long as it is motioned on a point of order (a query that the rules are being followed), according to SGA parliamentarian Bayley St. Clair. 

Speaker of the Senate Darius Thomas decides if the motion is in order and reserves the right to deny a roll call motion. 

Sen. CJ Pearson agreed that roll call votes may not be efficient. 

“In the interest of the efficiency of the Senate, to make sure we are being as productive as we can and we’re able to serve the students in the most efficient and effective way possible, this would add an unnecessary kind of bureaucratic restraint,” Pearson said. 

Sen. Lauren Rouse also spoke against the legislation, suggesting that providing votes of senators could be something done through the SGA webmaster instead of through altering parliamentary procedure. 

“I respect what Sen. Dodd said about transparency, because that’s something we need to work on, but personally I would be more than happy to tell my constituents what I vote for or to put it on our personal SGA website,” Rouse said. “I feel like this could be something done internally.”

During the meeting Dodd said senators need to look beyond standard parliamentary procedure in an effort to promote transparency to students. 

“Debate against parliamentary procedure aside, I think for the sake of transparency it’s important that this passes. … We were elected by our constituents, and they need to know how we vote on certain things,” Dodd said. 

Press secretary Olivia Davis said the legislative branch reserves the right to alter any rules and regulations. 

“The legislative branch holds the authority to alter their rules and regulations, and as accessibility is a priority of the SGA, all Senate meetings are public access for any member of the campus community to attend,” Davis said. 

McCleskey said he has no plans to revisit the legislation in the future but remains in shock over the outcome. 

“I was surprised at the lack of people who [supported] this. I think people are concerned about their voting records not being as good as people want,” McCleskey said. 

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