By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
A committee will be in place by the end of this week to rewrite student election laws, election officials said.
The committee will have the task of changing a system whose vagaries are blamed for this year’s election controversy. More than 150 votes were disqualified last week, and three of four presidential candidates were cited for rule violations.
“There were a couple specific things we saw in this election cycle that could be addressed,” said Jeremy Gordon, Students’ Association executive vice president and elections chair.
Gordon said the vagueness of the rules caused misunderstanding between the candidates and the two election officials-he and rules chair Elizabeth Alvarez.
According to a list provided by Alvarez published in Wednesday’s Optimist, president-elect Jonathan Wilkerson and opponents Shep Strong and Erin Baldwin, both junior class senators, violated at least three election rules apiece. Baldwin and Strong both objected, saying they did not violate several of the items listed.
Strong said he believed he ran a clean campaign, in part because he did not have votes disqualified. Wilkerson, who had 160 votes disqualified for not getting approval for a truck parked on the mall during voting, expressed frustration that he was the only candidate penalized in such a way.
The election rules do not give any guideline for punishments, saying only that use of any unapproved materials or violation of any election rules in campaigning could result in disqualification.
“We feel a blanket punishment for all offenses is inadequate,” Alvarez said. “We’re going to reevaluate the process of campaigning on this campus as a whole.”
Hemness and Baldwin charged Wilkerson with running an unethical campaign in a series of talks with social clubs the night the two were eliminated from the race. The charges stemmed from the unapproved truck and an incident where Wilkerson stood in front of a class and solicited votes.
The election rules, however, forbid a candidate from including “a public endorsement from [faculty and staff] in their campaign material.” They do not prohibit in-class campaigning or soliciting endorsements from professors, but such campaigning presumably would require approval from the elections chair.
“I believe that campaigning is the solicitation of votes,” Gordon said. “Anything you do to solicit a vote is a campaigning activity-anything short of talking to individual people.”
The election rules, which are not part of any official document except those prepared each year by the election standing committee, include14 points.
Among the most controversial this year:
* Written approval is required for the posting of materials on any building. Strong and Baldwin were cited for this violation, but both presented the Optimist signed slips of paper from building supervisors.
* The SA office is a “campaign-free zone.” Wilkerson was cited for this violation, but the rule states specifically that candidates may not use “materials or equipment” for campaigning purposes. Wilkerson had campaign materials stored in his office, Alvarez said.
* Campaign approval is through the executive vice president. While the rules devote two points to how materials should be approved, none describes what exactly should be approved.
“If you have a sign that says one thing, and you translate that into a sandwich board and make it really big and put it in the middle of campus, is that the same medium?” said Gordon, who said he approved designs for small items that ended up being on large items. “Is that the same message?”
Alvarez said she expects to have the committee finalized by Wednesday; Gordon said he planned on working on the rules even after he leaves office at the Changing of the Guard April 24.
“We’re doing this because we want there to be more consistency,” Gordon said. “When you leave things open to interpretation, you don’t have a basis to do [elections] on.”