The Duke Student Government Judiciary convened Monday night to hear the case of The $100 Plan v. DSG.
The case Monday centered around the burden placed on students when they wish to have a referendum question placed on an election ballot. Senior Daniel Strunk acted as the petitioner in the case representing The $100 Plan, which is a petition to allow students to designate where they would allocate 40 percent of their student activities fee each semester. Because Strunk was acting as the petitioner in the case, he recused himself from the role of chief justice of DSG. The ruling is expected to be announced early Tuesday morning, said Associate Justice Max Schreiber, a sophomore.
Under current DSG bylaws, any individual or group who wishes to have a referendum question placed on an election ballot must either obtain the approval of two-thirds of the Senate or obtain the signatures of 15 percent of the undergraduate student body. The latter option of which stipulates that signatures must be collected with each signer’s printed name, signature and their telephone number. Additionally, the petition must be submitted to the DSG Attorney General at least three weeks before the election.
"The bylaws are about the specifics," Strunk said. "I am saying those bylaws are unconstitutional because they violate the rights that the student body has...The constitution is superior to the bylaws."
Strunk argued that regulations put in place by these bylaws infringe on student rights as established by the DSG Constitution and Bill of Rights—including the right to petition DSG.
In the petitioner’s argument, The $100 Plan argued that DSG can only burden the execution of a fundamental right—such as the right to petition—if it passes an explicit test for strict scrutiny as established by the case Dinner and Wang v. Board of Elections.
DSG Executive Vice President Nikolai Doytchinov, a junior, and DSG Attorney General Syed Adil, a sophomore, represented the respondent.
Doytchinov argued that DSG is within its rights to require these stipulations to have a referendum question placed on an election ballot because they need to be able to validate all of the signatures collected.
"In my memory, there has not been a single referendum initiated by petition," Doytchinov said.
When asked if this pointed to evidence that the process to initiate a referendum by petition was unduly burdensome, Doytchinov said he respectfully disagreed.
"It is actually quite plausible that Duke students simply haven't gotten particularly riled up about any constitutional DSG issues," he said. "The DSG Constitution is mostly a document of internal rules and procedures."
Strunk said that The $100 Plan was prompted to file the case after they began collecting signatures for their petition electronically, but were informed that their method of collection was invalid.
This is the first case in which DSG as a whole was the respondent since the 2010 case of Bergmann, Robinette v. DSG— in which the court made two rulings regarding DSG election procedure. In that case, the judiciary found that the BOE had the authority to extend or push back the date of an election. It also found that the BOE had the ability to accept additional candidates for a campaign even after campaigning has already started.