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Undergraduate Council Election Commission Gets Tough the Second Time Around

By Parker R. Conrad, Crimson Staff Writer

Who would have thought that Election Commission Chair David L. Levy '00 would have been among the most prominent figures in last year's Undergraduate Council elections?

The commission, for years an uncontroversial institution, was thrust into the spotlight last year when then-candidates Fentrice D. Driskell '01 and John A. Burton '01 were accused of campaign violations that could have led to their disqualification from the race.

Driskell and Burton are now council president and vice president, respectively.

But several of those who argued last year that the election commission mishandled the alleged campaign violations are hoping to make sure the commission behaves differently this year by taking seats on the commission and demanding tougher standards and penalties.

Sterling P.A. Darling '01, who lost the presidency to Driskell last year and has criticized the commission, is one of this year's six commissioners, as is Kyle D. Hawkins '02, a council member who chaired Darling's campaign and called for Burton's impeachment last year.

A Driskell supporter--Alex A. Boni-Saenz '01--also sits on the commission, as do three non-council members, Nancy A. Redd '03, Zina L. Gelman '04 and Melissa A. Eccleston '04.

Last Time Around

Last year's election commission found itself at the center of council controversy when candidates sparred over the campaign expenditures of the Driskell-Burton campaign.

First, the election commission said Driskell and Burton had overspent their campaign limit, a violation which, unbeknownst to election commissioners, would have resulted in the ticket's automatic expulsion from the race.

Opponents demanded that the commission take action.

The next day election commissioners insisted that Driskell and Burton were well beneath the $100 maximum spending limit. Then election commissioners said they weren't really so sure.

Darling and Hawkins were among the election commission's harshest critics.

"[The election commissioners] were very apathetic people...they didn't know what the rules were and didn't care to know," Darling says.

Last fall, there was a general sense among Driskell-Burton opponents that the election commission was unwilling to enforce the rules, and a sense among Driskell-Burton supporters that the election commission confusion was contributing to the suspicion surrounding their ticket.

"It's one thing to decide that you don't think a rule is important, it's another thing not to make that decision and just ignore it," Darling says.

This year, Hawkins says things are different.

Hawkins says the commission will not hesitate to penalize candidates if they violate the rules.

"Last year, rules which should have been enforced weren't enforced, and I want to make sure that doesn't happen again," he says.

This year, the commission is forbidding candidates from using table tents or mail drops in the campaign, in the hopes that no questions will arise about whether candidates had the proper authorization.

"We're getting rid of anything that we knew, based on past experience, to be very capricious in terms of permission," Darling says.

The commission is also making all decisions collectively, instead of assigning a single commissioner to make all the decisions for a campaign.

"There won't be a situation where someone is seen to be an advocate or policeman of one campaign," Darling says.

Darling and Hawkins say that, because of their involvement in the impeachment process, they expect that candidates will be extra careful about following the rules.

"[Almost] all of this year's candidates were all involved...last year and saw that Sterling and I really disagreed with what the election commission did and know that we are not going to let anyone get away with anything," Hawkins says.

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