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UNC Supreme Court rules to let student body revote on graduate student government referendum

The ruling comes after the Graduate and Professional Student Federation filed a lawsuit in February against the Board of Elections for what GPSF claimed was an incorrect voting procedure that resulted in the Two for Two separation referendum’s failure.

The Board of Elections used instant runoff voting in which voters rank their choices for referenda in order instead of voting for or against each specific referendum on the ballot.

Allie Crimmins, student solicitor general and counsel for the defense, said that before the vote in February, the Board of Elections decided to use the instant runoff system of voting to avoid a potential constitutional crisis in which two conflicting referenda — Two for Two and Better Together — could pass with no existing legislation to address the issue.

“There’s only an opportunity for one constitution because we cannot have two,” she said. “We cannot have two separate governments and also one united government at the same time. That would be in conflict.”

Student Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Leming said he shared Crimmins’ concerns.

“What do you do if both of those are voted upon and both those are passed in an election?”

Travis Crayton, counsel for the plaintiff, said the court should not take into account what would happen if this conflict arose.

“I think it’s a great hypothetical question, but I think it’s beyond the merits of this case,” he said.

Whether instant runoff voting is a valuable and viable form of voting, Crayton said, was not relevant to the case. Instead, he said, the court should consider how the Board of Elections acted outside of its authority to use this form of voting instead of a “for or against” method.

The court agreed and said the Board of Elections had no precedent or authority to abandon its “yes or no” voting procedure without legislation from Student Congress.

The Two for Two referendum will appear again on the ballot in the fall 2016 election along with the Better Together referendum, which seeks to revise the constitution without separating student government.

Leming said voters will be required to vote for or against each referendum, unless Student Congress passes a bill allowing for instant runoff voting before the election happens.

Autumn McClellan, treasurer of the GPSF, said the ruling is a step toward autonomy for graduate students but doesn’t guarantee it.

“I’m glad that we have a more proper shot at it than I felt that we had during the original election, but I know there’s still a lot of work to do.”

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