Editor’s note: Since the publication of this article, information regarding the administration’s response to Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine’s referendum has been provided to the Daily, and is reflected below in a statement made on Dec. 21 by Patrick Collins, executive director of media relations at Tufts. Individuals appointed to positions on the TCU Senate and Judiciary as a result of the recent special election have also been identified below.
The Elections Commission of the Tufts Community Union announced the results of their fall 2020 special election on Saturday evening. The ballot featured two referenda questions, one from Tufts for a Racially Equitable Endowment and the other from Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine.
Despite having found two violations of the election process as outlined in the TCU Constitution, ECOM decided that the referenda elections were valid, and they both passed.
Referendum Question One, sponsored by Tufts for a Racially Equitable Endowment, passed with 88% of voters in favor and 8% opposed. There were 2,245 “yes” votes, 198 “no” votes and 108 abstentions.
Referendum Question Two, sponsored by Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine, passed with 68% of voters in favor and 26% opposed. There were 1,725 “yes” votes, 665 “no” votes and 161 abstentions.
Students for Justice in Palestine’s referendum was about the demilitarization of the Tufts University Police Department, and Tufts for a Racially Equitable Endowment’s demanded that Tufts divest from corporations that profit off of the private prison system.
ECOM determined that there were two violations of the election process.
“[T]he full wordings of the referenda were not made public at least nine days before the election as required by the Constitution, and … the referenda did not have a receipt date with the Elections Commission at least seven days before the vote, as required by the Elections Commission bylaws,” ECOM said in their statement.
In spite of these violations, ECOM ruled that the results of the elections were still valid. They said that there was not a significant enough break in proper election procedure, and that due to this election’s high voter turnout, an additional election would be unlikely to significantly change the results.
ECOM reported that the fall 2020 special election had the highest recorded voter turnout of any special election in Tufts history, with 42% of the student body voting.
“Special elections have historically seen the lowest turnout of elections that ECOM holds, but this special election’s turnout actually exceeded every single TCU presidential election since 2013,” the statement said.
The TCU Constitution requires that, in order to pass, referenda must receive one-sixth “yes” votes, as well as a majority of “yes” votes. Both referenda met those requirements, adding to their validity.
Due to the discrepancies in the electoral process, ECOM clarified some of its electoral rules regarding referenda in the statement they released.
“Moving forward, our recommendation is to hold a meeting between members of the Committee on Student Life, Elections Commission, Judiciary, and Senate to coordinate the process of filing referenda and getting them on the ballot,” the statement said. “If that meeting deems it necessary, an amendment to the Constitution or their bylaws must be passed to clarify the process and remove any inconsistencies.”
ECOM has also committed to notifying all branches of government when the date of an election is first publicized in order to ease the process for all involved in the election.
“We hope that these changes will allow for a correction of the mistakes made in this election so as to not repeat them in the future,” the statement said.
On Dec. 21, Patrick Collins, executive director of media relations at Tufts, responded to the results of Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine’s referendum.
“We are disappointed in the result of the referendum, which mischaracterized the university’s approach to public safety and policing. The referendum was non-binding and was conducted by the student body independent of the university’s administration; the university will not be taking action in response to the vote’s outcome,” Collins wrote in an email to the Daily.
Beyond the referenda, the special election filled every open seat in Tufts’ student government.
“We had seven candidates run for positions on the Senate and Judiciary,” the statement said.
Seven students were appointed to the Senate and Judiciary.
Class of 2022 Senator: Andrew Hong
Class of 2022 Senator: Daniel Weber
Class of 2024 Senator: Sam Epstein
Women’s Community Senator: Isha Bhatnagar
International Community Senator: Aadhya Shivakumar
Judiciary: Maya Namasivayam
Judiciary: Chase Thalheimer
Correction: This article has been updated to correctly reflect the stance of the Elections Commission of the Tufts Community Union that neither group who submitted a referendum was directly responsible for the violations found by ECOM. The Daily regrets this error.