The Student Government Supreme Court determined that the student body presidential elections, originally scheduled for Feb. 28 and March 1, need to be cancelled and rescheduled due to improper procedure in the forming of the Election Rules Commission.
The ERC is responsible for certifying candidates to run, approving all campaign materials and ensuring that candidates do not break the election rules.Andrew Kirkland, who is the head of the ERC, could not be reached for comment.
According to SG statutes, all members of the ERC must be confirmed by the SG senate. Only Kirkland was ever confirmed by the SG senate.
SG Senate president Frank Harrison has called an emergency session of the senate which will take place Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. in order to confirm all members of the ERC as soon as possible and look into how to remedy the situation.
Since Harrison is running for student body president he has stated he will step down as chair of the meeting to prevent any perception of conflict of interest. Senate president pro tempore James Culp will act as chair in his stead.
There is still much uncertainty regarding whether the elections can and or will still be held on the original dates since this situation is so unusual.
The issue was first brought to the court by Culp and SG Director David Armstrong defended the legitimacy of the ERC in front of the court.
Culp said he brought the matter to the court after realizing statutes had not been followed because it was his duty as a senator. He also said it was better for the matter to be rectified as soon as possible rather than perhaps someone else bringing the issue up in the midst of the election process.
Culp argued that since the ERC was not properly formed all points it had assessed to tickets were null and void.
Armstrong argued that the ERC was valid because it has been recognized by SG in practice since they have been performing the duties of the ERC.
The court determined that the ERC and all of its prior actions relating to this year’s election, not just points assessed as Culp had pleaded, null and void since procedure for establishing the ERC was correctly followed.
The official Opinion from the court reads:
“We unanimously grant the request of the Senate President Pro-Tempore, hereafter referred to as Culp, in part, and declare that the Election Rules Committee, as a body, has no standing. The previously scheduled election beginning on February 28, 2006 is recalled because all decisions made by the ERC are null and void, including the decision to certify candidates, approve campaign materials, and so forth.”
Since the situation is so unusual, there are many questions surrounding what will happen next. Some are questioning whether the court has overstepped its abilities in calling for the election to be rescheduled. Both SG statutes and the SG constitution specify when student body presidential elections are to be held. They both read that the election should take place the Tuesday and Wednesday two weeks prior to Spring Break.
Culp said the election should be able to take place as originally scheduled following the emergency senate meeting.
“I think the ERC will just pick up as if it never happened,” Culp said. He added that in his opinion all point assessments should be null and void though.
He admitted though that there is still a lot of uncertainty as to what will happen even if the members of the ERC are confirmed by the senate, especially regarding candidacy paperwork that has been filed, grievances filed against candidates, points assessed to candidates and previous approval of campaign materials.
Culp first discovered the issue when he was studying the election rules while preparing to represent Harrison and his running mate Faran Abbasi in front of the court Thursday night. The Harrison/Abbasi ticket was appealing decision of the ERC to give it 1 point for putting large campaign signs up around campus too soon.
Once a ticket reaches 10 points it is disqualified.
The statement issued by the court went on to read that the court “did not take this matter lightly, but we affirm that this judgment is in the best interest of all students and meets with the high ethical standards that not only the Court but also the University has put forth.”