Election commission, council president-elect should clear the airLast week's Undergraduate Council elections went off without any of the usual bureaucratic hitches. The Fentrice D. Driskell '01-John A. Burton '01 ticket won the presidency and vice presidency handily with over 1,000 votes each. Undergraduates voted to downsize the council to 50 members and rejected a proposal to increase the term-bill fee. The results were announced fairly promptly after midnight on Dec. 15. All this, and ucvote didn't even crash.
But as the dust settles after the council's fifth general election, disturbing questions remain about how the election was conducted and overseen by the Election Commission. Like any government, the council has a lengthy list of rules and regulations contained within its constitution, including a provision for a neutral election commission, made up equally of council and non-council members.
The commission is responsible for publicizing the dates of the election, coordinating the candidacy forms, tabulating votes and, most importantly, overseeing the campaigns to ensure that all candidates abide by the rules of the commission and of the University as a whole. All candidates are required to submit detailed expense accounts throughout the campaign, and violations of the rules are to be brought before the commission. The implicit purpose of the commission is to make the election legitimate in the eyes of the student body and hold the council accountable for its behavior. But the secrecy and apparent incompetence of this year's election commission has left us wondering: Was this a fair election? At the very least, we need an explanation.
Last Wednesday evening--the last day of voting--the commission met to address possible over-spending and campaign violations by the Driskell-Burton ticket. Possible violations alleged by other campaigns include the stuffing of the first-year mailboxes--a potential University offense, which would merit immediate disqualification--and overspending through use of in-kind donations.
That night, one election commissioner told The Crimson that Driskell and Burton had exceeded their spending limit of $100. If this were true, election commission rules stipulate that they should have been immediately removed from the ballot. Candidates can only return unused campaign materials to offset fines for lesser election violations.
The next day, after Driskell and Burton had claimed an easy victory in the race, three other election commissioners acknowledged that overspending had occurred but said that the commission had agreed not to penalize the candidates at such a late stage in the election. Election commissioner David L. Levy '00 told the public in an e-mail that the commission "allowed [Driskell and Burton] to return unused campaign materials to bring themselves under spending limits"--a statement that is logically incongruous with existing council rules.
Later that day, election commissioners retracted their previous statements regarding the overspending and claimed that the candidates had never been over the limit in the first place. Such a scenario is conceivable, depending on how much the commission decided to charge the campaign for in-kind donations such as lemonade from a dining hall and buttons from the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters' Alliance. But, according to three election commissioners, the commission never really made an official decision last Wednesday night, opting instead simply to consider it a moot point.
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