An election for student body president, a campaign that violated all sense of electoral fairness by handing out free pizza at polls it operated without oversight, a victory thanks to those disreputable tactics, and an Election Rules Commission (ERC) that can’t do anything about it – largely thanks to the absence of any rules to be enforced.
This is, in essence, is what the Barclay Harless/Garin Flowers assumption of power will represent.
Despite that, there isn’t anything that can be done about it. After all, the ERC can’t do anything about an election in which no rules were broken. There is nothing in Student Government’s rules preventing the independent operation of polling stations. In fact, there is nothing in the statutes forbidding the handing out of free pizza – or even money, provided the candidate doesn’t exceed the $3,000 campaign budget limit. To be fair, the ERC can get on a candidate’s back about some things: Bribery and intimidation may be perfectly fine, but turning in late paperwork is still an offense.
Student Government has a reason for essentially gutting its rules system, of course: It didn’t think the rules worked. One would be hard-pressed to disagree, considering the prolonged elections last year, which ended in grievances and the lengthy involvement of the SG Supreme Court and Student Affairs.
Of course, one would find it difficult to argue this year’s campaign went any better. Bribery and intimidation were permitted, and while SG’s Supreme Court is getting involved again, it isn’t doing so in quite the same way. Since there is nothing of import to grieve about because everything is allowed, the statement on the SG Supreme Court’s Web site is unsurprising: “With a unanimous ruling the Court denies trial for an election candidate (Jessica Asuncion) wishing to contest the manner in which the election process was held.”
The only “process” was to win by any means necessary, which is completely permissible now.
Instead of doing something about the disreputable behavior of its candidates, which in turn leads to lengthy discussions about rules violations and diminishes most students’ desire to participate, SG has decided to make disreputable behavior – like bribery and intimidation – permissible.
One does not fix corrupt police departments by eliminating the law. One does not address bad behavior, such as bribery and voter intimidation, by making it legal. One does not run what is intended to be a service organization by associating rewards with unenlightened and unethical forms of self-interest – self-interest so craven it has managed to make what is illegal everywhere else legal at USF.