Student Senate coalitions present alleged campaign violations
- Apr. 15, 2013
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Armed with the 21-page 2013 Election Code handbook, the Student Senate Elections Commission is considering alleged campaign violations after Sunday night’s hearing. The unprecedented 25 percent voter turnout made for a competitive campaign season where each coalition watched the other for possible infringements of election protocols.
Ad Astra and KUnited coalitions collectively face 29 alleged violations. Last year, only 4 violations were reported.
“Both the coalitions were very competitive and very serious,” said Caleb McIntosh, the Elections Commissioner and a sophomore from Carney. “We expected this.”
The extensive reports on alleged violations included blurry camera phone photos, Facebook event screenshots, forwarded emails and official meeting minutes.
“Ultimately, two groups of students wanted to win over the student body and both groups felt that breaking the rules wasn’t the way to do it,” said Mark Savoy, the KUnited School of Law Senator Elect, from Overland Park.
Alleged violations reported against the KUnited coalition include using an academic group email list to campaign, public displaying of campaign posters in Lewis Residence Hall without permission from the complex director, distributing campaign materials at The Grove and The Legends Apartment Complexes without approval from the owners, holding a campaign event at Crawford Community House, a university-owned building, without approval from the University Events Commission, intimidating a student who had previously filed a complaint and nominating a graduate senator candidate who had been accepted into but not already a part of his graduate program.
Alleged violations reported against Ad Astra coalition include chalking on a stairway, failing to wear the Elections Commision-appointed, nonpartisan “Vote” button that denotes the wearer as a candidate while campaigning, distributing handbills that did not have the URL of the Elections Commission website, including adastraku.org on a white board reminding residents to vote and repeatedly obscuring opponent chalking.
The Elections Commission read each alleged violation’s incident report, clarified details and allowed representatives of each coalition to respond and plead to or frequently refute the complaint.
For example, Emma Halling, Ad Astra Vice Presidential Elect, spoke in front of one of her classrooms to announce that voting was open and all students should participate in the election. While this announcement was non-partisan, she was wearing an Ad Astra T-shirt. The KUnited incident report argues that the announcement qualifies as campaigning for her coalition, breaking Election Code 409.A.3, which bars campaigning inside university-owned buildings.
“If wearing a T-shirt is to be considered campaigning, then we have several thousand violations that happened last week that we need to pursue,” said Halling, a junior from Elkhart, Ind.
Many of the above listed alleged violations were thoroughly refuted; some were plead. Both coalitions and all individuals specifically involved attended yesterday’s two-hour hearing panel to be adjudicated or acquitted.
“It was a necessary evil to make sure that the integrity of the election was followed through,” said Marcus Tetwiler, the Ad Astra Student Body President Elect, a junior from Paola.
While the list of alleged violations is extensive, both coalitions expressed that policing each other is exclusive to the campaign season.
“The campaign is over,” Tetwiler said. “We’re going forward. We’re looking toward how we can actually get these jobs done.”
Violation reports, McIntosh said, help to fulfill and validate the democratic process.
“If everyone is going to be looking at what you’ve done, it’s going to make you be more consistent with how the elections code forces you to be,” McIntosh said. “The more violations creates an incentive for you to act according to what the code tells you.”
Violations in years past have been punished by fines against the coalition, such as a $25 fine for violating chalking codes. Both coalitions will be notified within 48 hours of the meeting on the verdicts of the cases and the sanction recommendations by the panel.
Emily is a sophomore studying English from Kansas City, Kan. Read more from Emily Donovan.