Senate denies student position on Judicial Branch

The 49th senate meeting for the Senate meeting.
Photo Submitted by Youdline Joseph

Senators and students gathered in the Senate chambers Monday for their weekly meeting.

SGA associate justice Titilayo Okuwa was confirmed for a position on the Judicial Branch after 10 affirmative votes, five abstentions and one no vote by the 16 senators in attendance.

But it didn’t end there. A debate ensued on how to determine a two-thirds majority for confirmation.

“I call for a three-minute recess due to calculation errors,” elections and appointments chairwoman, Carrington Whigham, said following the vote.

This statement came after the confirmations of Kamou Louis and Melissa Lavoile onto the Judicial Branch.

After a notice of a mistake when tabulating the votes, Christopher Miller, the Student Senate president, and a few of the senators stepped out of the chambers to review the governing body’s laws.

According to the Senate powers and duties of the Legislative Branch, they decided they should institute a majority vote, “With the exception of bylaws concerning the elections codes, qualifications for office, finance codes, sunshine act, and ethics codes which shall require a two-thirds (two-thirds) vote of the Student Senate.”

Senator Andy Jean-Baptiste cast the one “no” vote against Okuwa, leaving her with 10 “yes” and one nay. What wasn’t clear was if an abstention is ultimately counted as a vote. If it is, then the 10-6 vote for Okuwa failed to meet the two-thirds majority required for confirmation.

“I hope you all are using abstention because there’s conflict of interest  and not because you are afraid to vote,” said Miller.

Rochard Moricette, the student body president, rose in the gallery after being asked to explain the matter at hand.

“When an individual abstains their vote they are declining to vote for or against,” said Moricette.

He said the senators were not following precedent if they denied Okuwa her seat on the Judicial Branch.

The senators struggled with the question: Do abstaining votes count in the two-thirds vote, or not?

“Because so many senators left the chambers during the proceeding and many voted to abstain, I wasn’t able to get a clear view on where they stand with my confirmation,” said Okuwa.

After research and short deliberation, the Student Senate concluded that Okuwa would have to return for confirmation next week.