The student body may be one step closer to electing its Student Government leaders in the next few weeks. A Travis County judge will decide on March 26 whether former presidential candidate Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara will be put back on the ballot after being disqualified.
Students elected the new SG General Assembly in the Feb. 29 and March 1 campus-wide elections with the exception of the president and vice president positions. Until students elect a new president and vice president, current SG president Natalie Butler, vice president Ashley Baker and their executive board will preside over the new assembly. Baker said the lack of a president and vice president will make the transition into a new year different and will require additional preparation, but will not affect the assembly.
According to the SG Constitution, the president and vice president serve one-year terms beginning the first Tuesday of April and are required to stay in office until their replacements are elected.
Gardner filed a lawsuit against UT and UTSG on Feb. 27 claiming the Election Code the Election Supervisory Board and the SG Judicial Court used to disqualify him and Guevara was unconstitutional because the code violated their First Amendment rights to association.
The Board disqualified the pair on Feb. 23 for associating their campaign with then-Student Events Center presidential candidate Carissa Kelley in their printed promotional materials, videos and on their website. Judge Tim Sulak issued a two-week temporary restraining order on the elections on Feb. 28. UT and Gardner agreed to extend the restraining order until March 27 on March 12.
The new assembly will hold their first meeting April 3. At the meeting, the assembly will elect the chair of the assembly and six standing committee chairs.
Baker said developing a strong transition was important to her and Butler. She said she and Matt Hicks, the current chair of the assembly, have set up a retreat for the new general assembly members on April 1 to ease the transition and teach them about assembly procedure, how to write legislation and what representatives should do within their committees.
“I think [the new president and vice president] will run into issues when they appoint their executive board, executive staff and agency directors,” Baker said. “A lot of meetings with the administration happen in the summer. The beginning of term we had to decide where everyone would fit within SG.”
Baker said the first few meetings after a president and vice president are elected are usually dedicated to choosing their executive board and making external appointments, including policy directors, agency directors and other positions.
She said even though the selection of the executive board will be postponed, the applications are currently available and there are already some applicants, which should expedite the process.
Matt Hicks, current chair of the assembly, said he does not think the transition will hurt the new assembly if the elections happen soon after Monday’s hearing. He said the assembly will be able to operate normally without a new president and vice president for the first few meetings.
“The assembly will still be able to operate smoothly,” Hicks said. “It all comes down to how this decision impacts the executive branch or the programming arm of SG.”
Gardner said he is confident a decision will be made at the March 26 hearing, and he hopes there will be an SG president before the assembly’s first meeting on April 3.
“We feel confident because we know our cause is just,” Gardner said. “We don’t know what will happen, but we are hopeful [to be put back on the ballot] because I think we have a good case. Once people hear our story, they will think the same way and a judge will as well.”