By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
Presidential candidates responded Wednesday to official reports that they had broken numerous campaign rules, either chalking most of the violations to miscommunication or denying they occurred altogether.
At the same time, SA election officials said they were questioning whether the formation of an investigative committee into this year’s election controversy would do more harm than good.
Instead, said vice president and elections chair Jeremy Gordon, he and election rules chair Elizabeth Alvarez will focus on rewriting the election rules.
“What you’re going to see happen in a major way from all this is a reform of the election rules,” Gordon said. “Elizabeth Alvarez and I are going to completely rewrite election rules.”
Controversy had arisen over various campaign methods that the election officials said were in violation of the rules; candidates Shep Strong and Erin Baldwin both said they had far fewer violations than the official report, which the Optimist printed Wednesday.
“I ran a campaign that I felt I could be proud of when it was done,” Strong said. “I didn’t knowingly break any rules.”
Strong produced copies of receipts and signed slips granting him permission for placing signs in Mabee, McKinzie and Gardner halls. Alvarez had listed a failure to obtain signatures among his violations.
Baldwin also produced signed, dated evidence of approval for her large banner, series of plates and residence hall approvals from Sikes, Gardner, Mabee, Edwards, McKinzie and McDonald halls, as well as the Campus Center, Moody Coliseum and the Bean.
Alvarez said she stands behind her list, noting that approval was gotten in many cases after signs were already hung or after she and Gordon had warned candidates their materials would be removed.
Gordon, on the other hand, said some of the listed violations could have been mistakes.
“We have no way of knowing if they got approval before putting stuff up,” Gordon said. “A couple of them might have been oversights.”
Baldwin also defended her decision to campaign for Strong before his runoff against eventual winner Jonathan Wilkerson.
“We didn’t go because we wanted to put down Jonathan Wilkerson,” she said. “That potential bridge-burning hasn’t happened. All four of us have already begun to work together on a project.”
Alvarez and Gordon said they decided the investigation of campaign abuses at this point would be counterproductive for SA.
“We’re not really sure what a committee would accomplish,” Alvarez said. “It seems to us that it would be more effective to assemble a small committee to change the election rules.”
Alvarez admitted the rules are “vague.” They also call for immediate disqualification of any candidate who breaks them, something Gordon said he refuses to do.
“I am violently opposed to disqualifying someone from the election, especially after votes were cast,” he said. “When you do that, you’re messing with the mandate of the student body.”
Gordon said he envisioned a tiered penalty system for rules violations, possibly like the monetary system in place for those who violate post-election laws such as not removing campaign materials by curfew the last day of elections.
Currently, Alvarez said, vice presidential candidate Reese Campbell, Baldwin and Strong all have been fined.