By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
After last year’s executive officer election-in which presidential candidates violated election rules and lodged numerous complaints against each other-Jessica Black has one goal for this year’s race.
To not be noticed.
“I’ve heard about [last year’s election] from all sides,” said Black, chair of the Election Committee and sophomore psychology major from Fairfax, Va. “We wanted the candidates to know what was expected of them.”
Six students who picked up petitions for candidacy attended Tuesday night’s interest meeting, during which Black explained the election rules that were rewritten after last year’s race erupted into a flurry of accusations.
If all six turn in their petitions by Friday at 5 p.m. with the required 375 signatures, the candidates for executive office would be:
* For president: Spring Break Campaign committee co-director Clay Rich and Rouse;
* for vice president: Sen. Melanie Booker, sophomore class, and Sen. Kathleen Pi–a, junior class;
* and for treasurer: Rep. Elizabeth Alvarez, Administration Building, and Students in Free Enterprise president Tyler Cosgrove.
Students also will vote on a Constitutional amendment to lower the requirements for executive vice president. The election is March 31 and April 1.
The Students’ Association executive president convenes an elections committee twice a year, when the students vote for executive and class officers in the spring and academic representatives and freshman senators in the fall.
The vice president usually chairs the committee; however, president Jonathan Wilkerson Wilkerson appointed Black because Rouse is running for president.
“She had done some work in the fall,” Wilkerson said. “She did an outstanding job.”
In last year’s four-person race for president, then-election rules chair Alvarez cited three candidates-Erin Baldwin, Shep Strong and Wilkerson-for a total of 12 campaign violations, ranging from unapproved campaign materials to failure to obtain written permission to hang materials in buildings.
Baldwin, now an Ad Building representative, and Strong responded by providing the Optimist with copies of the written permission and claimed any violations were because of miscommunication, a claim echoed by Wilkerson.
Then-vice president Jeremy Gordon and Alvarez disqualified 160 votes for Wilkerson that were cast while an unapproved pickup truck was parked on the campus mall. Wilkerson said the action was inconsistent with previous decisions.
Wilkerson and Strong faced each other in a run-off, which was in turn marred when Baldwin and candidate Taylor Hemness, now a Don H. Morris Center representative, campaigned against Wilkerson in front of social clubs the night before the run-off without approval from the election chair.
After complaints that questioned the tastefulness and accuracy of Baldwin’s and Hemness’ claims, officials considered and decided against retroactively dsqualifying Strong after he lost the run-off.
Alvarez and Gordon rewrote the election rules in April and May to include a tiered punishment system with opportunity for appeal; portions of the new guidelines were incorporated by Rouse into the election rules used this semester, Alvarez said.
“These rules are a combination of the old rules and the ideas that we’d like to implement,” Alvarez said.
Major changes include a warning system, where a candidate that violates the rules would receive a warning if the election chair determines the violation occurred accidentally. Three warnings equal one violation.
If a candidate broke the rules purposely, a violation would be assessed immediately. The By-Laws require that a candidate be disqualified for a violation.
Candidates now may appeal violations, or warnings that led to a violation, and remain in the race while the election chair and executive president hear the appeal, the rules state. The election chair is required to rule on an appeal within 24 hours.
“We want to hold everyone accountable to the rules,” Black said, “including myself.”