Perhaps the most powerful figure in this year’s Undergraduate Council presidential campaign hasn’t been posting signs or holding rallies outside the Science Center.
As chair of the Election Commission, David I. Monteiro ’04 has been quietly shaping virtually every aspect of the election with his rigid—and somewhat unconventional—enforcement of campaign rules.
Monteiro has drawn criticism from some camps for the commission’s decision to impose a gag order on candidates before the official start of campaigning.
In a controversial move, the commission reinterpreted the council’s campaign rules to mean that candidates could not speak to the press or otherwise publicly discuss their candidacies until the official start of the campaign last Monday.
Several candidates argued that the gag order would unfairly tilt the election toward insider candidates with greater name recognition by allowing them to curry support privately within the council while leaving outsider candidates no venue to begin a public debate over the issues.
One outsider ticket—that of presidential candidate David M. Darst ’04 and running mate Shira S. Simon ’04—has been particularly critical of Monteiro.
Simon complained that the commission dismissed illegal posters seeming to support presidential candidate Rohit Chopra ’04 as sabotage without a proper investigation, while the commission assumed the Darst-Simon campaign was responsible for illegally placing posters bearing their names.
“It’s hard that the burden of proof is on us,” she says. “I really find the Election Commission things unfair so far.”
The commission has fined Darst and Simon a total of $88 so far for campaign violations—far more than any other ticket.
Kyle D. Hawkins ’02, a former chair of the Election Commission, confirms that Monteiro’s position is an influential one.
“The chair can set the tone of the Election Commission,” Hawkins says.
Whether the tone Monteiro has set and the rulings he has made will ultimately affect the outcome of the election is impossible to say. The soft-spoken and thoughtful commissioner says he has just tried to ensure an honest race.
“I think we’re a police force, but in the positive sense of the word,” Monteiro says. “We’re a force for campaign fairness, something to be feared but also a tool that can be used to ensure that a standard set of rules is followed.”
Since campaigning began, the Election Commission has been meeting privately for three hours at a time to investigate reported violations and decide on punishments.