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Request for Review: Ability of the Speaker to change voting duration during voting periods
Topic Started: Oct 9 2017, 08:18 PM (682 Views)
Siwale
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1. What law, government policy, or action (taken by a government official) do you request that the Court review?

The Speaker of the Regional Assembly has extended the vote duration of two matters currently at vote: Citizenship Security Evaluations Amendment and A Motion to admit Kasch to the Security Council. The voting deadline was set at the start of both votes to end on October 8th (EDT), however, the Speaker altered the deadline to October 10th (EDT) as the original voting deadline drew near.

2. What portions of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Legal Code, or other legal document do you believe has been violated by the above? How so?

Rules of the Regional Assembly of The North Pacific
 

Section 2. Voting

3. The Speaker will, at the beginning of a vote of the Regional Assembly, decide its duration as permitted by law.

4. If a number of citizens equal to or exceeding one third of the number of votes required to achieve quorum for any legislative vote object to the duration of a vote of the Regional Assembly decided by the Speaker before the conclusion of the vote, then that vote will last for the maximum duration permitted by law.

5. If at the conclusion of a vote quorum has not been achieved, then the Speaker may extend the duration of the vote to the maximum permitted by law.

The circumstances in which the Speaker can extend the voting duration are described here. One third of the voters required to achieve quorum did not object to the duration of the votes and a vote quorum would have been achieve had the votes ended at their originally scheduled time.

3. Are there any prior rulings of the Court that support your request for review? Which ones, and how?

No

4. Please establish your standing by detailing how you, personally, have been adversely affected. If you are requesting a review of a governmental action, you must include how any rights or freedoms of yours have been violated. If you are submitting this request in your capacity as the Attorney General or their designee, please note that here instead.

I am a citizen of The North Pacific. Extending the duration of a vote during the voting period can alter the results of the vote.

5. Do you have any further information you wish to submit to the Court with your request?

No
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Zyvetskistaahn


The Court accepts this request for review. The brief submission period will end in five days at Oct 15 2017, 09:30 AM.

Until such time as the Court has reached a final determination in relation to this request for review, the Court instructs the Speaker and his Deputies not to count either of the votes impugned by the request.
Government Official of TNP, By Order of the Lord High Inquisitor.

Chief Justice. Formerly, the Speaker; dictatorial, arbitrary and capricious.

Actually not a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

It's "Constibillocode" not "Constibillicode".
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Siwale
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Your honors, I would like to submit the following brief for your consideration:

Article 2, Clause 8 of the Constitution of The North Pacific allows for the Speaker to use their discretion when no rules exist:

Constitution of The North Pacific
 

Article 2: The Regional Assembly

8. The Speaker will administer the rules of the Regional Assembly. Where no rules exist, the Speaker may use their discretion.


However, a clear set of rules do exist for establishing and extending voting duration. These rules should have been followed for both votes at the center of this case.

The procedure for voting within the Regional Assembly is defined within Section 2 of the Rules of the Regional Assembly of The North Pacific:

Rules of The Regional Assembly of The North Pacific
 

Section 2. Voting

1. No more than two legislative votes may take place simultaneously at any time.

2. Unless otherwise required by law, votes of the Regional Assembly will last for a minimum of three and a maximum of seven days.

3. The Speaker will, at the beginning of a vote of the Regional Assembly, decide its duration as permitted by law.

4. If a number of citizens equal to or exceeding one third of the number of votes required to achieve quorum for any legislative vote object to the duration of a vote of the Regional Assembly decided by the Speaker before the conclusion of the vote, then that vote will last for the maximum duration permitted by law.

5. If at the conclusion of a vote quorum has not been achieved, then the Speaker may extend the duration of the vote to the maximum permitted by law.


The rules clearly state that the vote duration will be decided at the beginning of the vote. In both of the matters currently at hand, this was originally the case. The vote for both matters were set to conclude on October 8th EDT, five days after the start of the vote. It wasn't until the last day of voting that the Speaker extended the duration of the vote to the maximum of 7 days.

The rules also state the two situations in which the vote duration can be extended as listed in clauses 4 and 5 above. There is currently no evidence of any public opposition to the originally scheduled vote duration for either votes. Also, a simple look at either voting threads will show that vote quorum would have very easily been achieved had the votes ended at their scheduled times. Quorum being defined in Section 6.3, Clause 16 of the Legal Code of The North Pacific as:

Legal Code of The North Pacific
 

Section 6.3: Voting

16. The number of votes required to achieve quorum for any legislative vote is equal to one third of the number of citizens who have voted in at least one of the three most recent legislative votes. A legislative vote is a vote of the Regional Assembly to enact, amend or repeal laws.


Therefore, neither situation in which the duration could be extended was met for the two votes at the center of this case.

It is my argument that the Speaker must adhere to the laws and rules that regulate The Regional Assembly. Discretion is to only be used when no laws exist, which is not the case here.
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Owenstacey
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Your honours, I would like to submit the following brief for your consideration:

Section two of the Rules of the Regional Assembly give some times of for when a vote must be extended.

Quote:
 
Section 2. Voting

2. Unless otherwise required by law, votes of the Regional Assembly will last for a minimum of three and a maximum of seven days.

3. The Speaker will, at the beginning of a vote of the Regional Assembly, decide its duration as permitted by law.

4. If a number of citizens equal to or exceeding one third of the number of votes required to achieve quorum for any legislative vote object to the duration of a vote of the Regional Assembly decided by the Speaker before the conclusion of the vote, then that vote will last for the maximum duration permitted by law.

5. If at the conclusion of a vote quorum has not been achieved, then the Speaker may extend the duration of the vote to the maximum permitted by law.


As this shows, this part of the RA rules gives some times that votes MUST be extended. However, it falls short of explicitly stating that these are the only times that a vote may be extended. This means that they are not the sole reason for a vote being extended. This means that there is no rules that state that a vote cannot be extended for the reasons I had.

Article 2 Clause 8 of the constitution states that where no rules exist, which I feel, in conjunction with my previous remarks, donít. Then I have the discretion as the Speaker of the Regional Assembly to do what I think is right.

Quote:
 
Article 2: The Regional Assembly

8. The Speaker will administer the rules of the Regional Assembly. Where no rules exist, the Speaker may use their discretion.


As I made clear when I originally made the change of dates, due to serious RL problems about a couple of hours before the closing of the vote. I was not going to be able to close the vote and then do the vote count, as I would be in a place with poor signal. And with the short notice of the problem, I would not have been able to get one of my Deputies in to do it before the vote closed.

I feel that this, along with no rules stating that the laws set out in the legal code are only times for extending and that since no rule exists saying that I cannot change the timing of the vote during the voting period, then the powers granted under article 2 Clause 8 allow me to extend the voting period to the times that I have.

I would also like to make the court aware that no new votes were submitted in the extended period. So the extension of the vote makes no difference to the outcome.
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Guy
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Your honours (and may it please the Court),

The question for the Court in this case is whether the Speaker has the power to extend a vote once it had begun. The relevant provisions are extracted in the other briefs, but will also be quoted in this brief where necessary.

Speaker Owenstacey submits that, in the absence of a provision in the Rules of the Regional Assembly (the Rules) prohibiting the Speaker from extending the vote, this case is governed by the Speaker's discretion in accordance with Article 2 Clause 8 of the Constitution.

It is submitted that the Rules do prohibit the Speaker from extending a vote once opened, except in accordance with Clauses 4-5 of Section 2 of the Rules.

Section 2 Clauses 3-5 of the Rules states that (emphasis added):
Quote:
 
The Speaker will, at the beginning of a vote of the Regional Assembly, decide its duration as permitted by law.

4. If a number of citizens equal to or exceeding one third of the number of votes required to achieve quorum for any legislative vote object to the duration of a vote of the Regional Assembly decided by the Speaker before the conclusion of the vote, then that vote will last for the maximum duration permitted by law.

5. If at the conclusion of a vote quorum has not been achieved, then the Speaker may extend the duration of the vote to the maximum permitted by law.

Clause 3 requires the Speaker to decide the duration of the vote at its beginning. Clause 4 provides for a mechanism for the Speaker's decision to be overriden, and does not require further discussion here. Clause 5 provides that the Speaker may, at the conclusion of a vote, extend it in certain circumstances (if quorum is not attained).

If the Speaker was allowed to extend a vote at their absolute discretion, Clause 5 would be left with no work to do, as the Speaker would be able to extend the vote in the absence of a quorum even without Clause 5. It would be curious for the Regional Assembly to specify that the Speaker may extend a vote in what particular circumstance, if the Speaker may do so in all circumstances.

It is submitted that Clauses 4-5 represent the only circumstances in which a vote may be extended past its originally-announced length, which is why they are explicitly stated.

An alternative reading is that the Speaker has a discretion to extend a vote while it is ongoing, but Clause 5 represents the only circumstance in which they may do so at its conclusion. This distinction appears weak, however. It is questionable why there would be an absolute discretion to extend a vote while it is ongoing, but not right at its conclusion.

The appropriate relief is for the Court to require that the impugned votes be closed by the Speaker as if they had not been extended, discounting any votes that were cast during the extended voting period. As no votes were cast then, this will have no bearing on the outcome.
Edited by Guy, Oct 15 2017, 08:15 AM.
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Aug 21 2016, 12:00 PM
As with all Fenda regions, this one deserves a commend
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Zyvetskistaahn


The time for the submission of briefs has ended. The Court is considering this matter and ought to be able to give its decision within seven days.
Government Official of TNP, By Order of the Lord High Inquisitor.

Chief Justice. Formerly, the Speaker; dictatorial, arbitrary and capricious.

Actually not a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

It's "Constibillocode" not "Constibillicode".
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Zyvetskistaahn


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Ruling of the Court of The North Pacific
In regards to the judicial inquiry filed by Siwale on the Speaker's Power to Extend Voting Periods.
Opinion drafted by Zyvetskistaahn, joined by MacSalterson and Yalkan


The Court took into consideration the inquiry filed here by Siwale.

The Court took into consideration the legal briefs filed by Siwale, Owenstacey, and Guy.

The Court took into consideration the relevant portions of the Constitution of The North Pacific:
Article 2. The Regional Assembly
 
8. The Speaker will administer the rules of the Regional Assembly. Where no rules exist, the Speaker may use their discretion.

The Court took into consideration the relevant portions of the Legal Code of The North Pacific:
Section 6.3: Voting
 
16. The number of votes required to achieve quorum for any legislative vote is equal to one third of the number of citizens who have voted in at least one of the three most recent legislative votes. A legislative vote is a vote of the Regional Assembly to enact, amend or repeal laws.

The Court took into consideration the relevant portions of the Rules of the Regional Assembly of The North Pacific:
Section 2. Voting
 
3. The Speaker will, at the beginning of a vote of the Regional Assembly, decide its duration as permitted by law.
4. If a number of citizens equal to or exceeding one third of the number of votes required to achieve quorum for any legislative vote object to the duration of a vote of the Regional Assembly decided by the Speaker before the conclusion of the vote, then that vote will last for the maximum duration permitted by law.
5. If at the conclusion of a vote quorum has not been achieved, then the Speaker may extend the duration of the vote to the maximum permitted by law.

The Court took into consideration the relevant portions of its Ruling on the Speaker's Power to End Debate:
Quote:
 
With that decided, the Court would take this opportunity to comment more broadly on the powers of the Speaker. Under the aforementioned Constitutional clause, the Speaker is granted broad discretion, where no rules exist, to administer the Regional Assembly as he or she sees fit. Under the Bill of Rights segment also mentioned previously, the Court believes that all government officials are obligated by law to act in good faith in discharging their duties. The Court believes that the Speaker does possess the right to unilaterally table proposals, if their continued debate is not reasonably in the best interests of the region. The Constitution grants this discretion, and the Bill of Rights in effect obligates the Speaker to exercise said discretion if he or she feels it is appropriate. If the Nations of The North Pacific disagree, the procedure for Recall is quite clear, and as has been demonstrated over the past few months, is quite accessible. Legal review of the Speaker's discretionary decisions is not, generally speaking, necessary.

The Court took into consideration the relevant portions of its Ruling on the Use of the Speaker's Power to End Debate:
Quote:
 
The Constitution establishes that the Regional Assembly has the authority to create the rules for its governance, and that it is the duty of the Speaker to administer those rules. Where there is vagueness as to procedure, or when situations arise which are not covered by those rules, or by superseding ones within the Constitution, Legal Code, or Bill of Rights, the Speaker is empowered to act as they see fit within the best interests of the region. Previous Courts have interpreted this power broadly, upholding the Speaker's broad authority to maintain an appropriate atmosphere, promote a productive use of the Regional Assembly, and block proposals and votes which they deem harmful. While the relevant law has changed since the previous decision, prompting us to take this case, upon investigation the underlying principles have not.

The Court opines the following:

The Constitution provides for the Regional Assembly to make rules dealing with its proceedings. It further empowers the Speaker to take broad discretionary action where no rules exist.

The Regional Assembly has chosen to make rules in relation to the timing of votes. Those rules empower the Speaker to, at the beginning of a vote, decide the length of the vote and, at the end of it, to extend its length if it would be inquorate at the originally scheduled conclusion. They also provide citizens with a mechanism to extend the vote to the maximum duration.

It has not been argued before the Court that the Speaker was using their power under the rules to extend the vote. It has been argued, however, that if such a use was claimed, it would have been without the scope of the power. The Court accepts that this power was not exercised and that, had it been purported to have been exercised, it would have been unlawful. The power under the rules cannot be used prior to the conclusion of the vote and, in any event, the votes in question appear to have been quorate at the time the extension was made.

The Speaker has submitted that there exists a discretionary power under the Constitution to extend the duration of a vote and that the rules do not exclude the existence of such a power. The Court, in considering this proposition, is cognisant of its prior rulings on the nature of the Speaker's discretionary power: that it is a broad one; and that it is not limited strictly to occasions where no rules cover a matter, but extends to addressing vagueness in adopted rules. However, the Court does not agree that the rules permit the existence of a power of the kind the Speaker contends.

Clause 3 of the relevant Section of the rules provides for the Speaker to set the duration of the vote at its beginning, this serves to exclude the discretion of the Speaker in altering the duration of a vote. To hold that there exists a general discretion to extend a voting period during the voting period would rob this rule of a significant part of its force, effectively permitting a different period to be set after the beginning of a vote. Further, Clause 5 of the Section provides reason to think that the discretion is excluded: if Clause 3 was meant to leave intact a discretionary power to extend a vote in any circumstance, there would be no need to include an express discretion in relation to inquorate votes and Clause 5 would be rendered mere surplusage.

Where the rules cover a matter it is not necessary for them to expressly exclude the Speaker's discretion, for the discretion exists only where the rules are absent or sufficiently vague as to leave room for discretionary action. This Section is comprehensive and it does not contain a vagueness within which the Speaker's actions can be said to have fit, thus, its exclusion of a discretion to alter voting periods outside of its terms is total. The Court must conclude, therefore, that the extension was unlawful as there was no power to extend the voting period at the time the extension was made.

Turning to the remedy that the Court is to prescribe, the Court is mindful of the need to impress the importance of adherence to properly established procedure and to ensure, to the greatest possible extent, legal certainty. The delay inherent to the processes of the Court has, unfortunately, led to considerable uncertainty around a number of issues and ordering a count as though the conditions at the originally scheduled close remained true is likely to be of greater logistical difficulty for the Speaker than alternative remedies. Therefore, the Court concludes that the more certain remedy of voiding the impugned votes is the course that ought to be followed.

Accordingly, the votes on the Citizenship Security Evaluations Amendment and the motion to Admit Kasch to the Security Council are voided and the Speaker must commence fresh votes in relation to each of those matters.
Government Official of TNP, By Order of the Lord High Inquisitor.

Chief Justice. Formerly, the Speaker; dictatorial, arbitrary and capricious.

Actually not a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

It's "Constibillocode" not "Constibillicode".
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