Elections Commission Clarifies Senior Class President Race

In an email this morning to the ASSU Undergraduate Senate, the Elections Commission, and the media, Elections Commissioner Stephen Trusheim ’13 clarified questions about the status of Senior Shore. The decision declares that Senior Shore is an eligible slate, as the original signatories of the Declaration of Intent have not withdrawn their signatures – that fact alone is sufficient to maintain the integrity of the slate. The two members of Senior Shore mentioned as withdrawing in the previous post (Cody Sam ’12 and Marie Caliguri ’12) will only officially step down if the slate is elected. Grace Jones ’12 and an as-yet unknown rising senior will then join as the new presidents (in addition to Adrian Castillo ’12 and Taylor Goodspeed ’12, who are staying on). Effectively, Jones’s current participation is equivalent to that of any campaign volunteer, albeit with an agreement within the group that she will immediately replace one of the withdrawing presidents.

To assist in voter education about this change, the Elections Commission added this statement to the voter guide information:

Statement from the ASSU Elections Commission: Two members of this slate, Marie Caligiuri de Jesus and Cody Sam, have agreed to be replaced without serving as Senior Class Presidents. The slate has indicated that Grace Jones will be one of the replacement Senior Class Presidents on this slate.

However, the names of the members could not be changed without eliminating the integrity of the slate, which explains the reason that they were not changed. What does this decision mean? First off, it clears up this race – when the results are announced later today (at the CoHo at 5 PM), they will be final. Second, however, it also offers precedent on how to deal with changes to slate composition after the close of petitioning. The rule it offers is simple: so long as no signatories of the Declaration of Intent actually withdraw, the slate remains on the ballot, even if it intends to change composition later. This rule is smart by virtue of how simple it is – it is difficult to imagine many situations in which much further decision-making is required – but does raise the possibility of abuse. In a race like that for class president, incumbency is powerful. This rule could encourage other slates to purposefully leave their original slate intact, while actually planning to govern with other individuals. To be sure, that’s just a possibility (also, to clarify, that’s not what happened with Senior Shore) – one could easily argue that keeping the name intact means a lot more than keeping the membership intact to the average voter – but it’s out there. Overall, given the imperatives of trying to salvage a fair election on late notice, it’s a reasonable decision and fair reading of the rules (for more of the specific logic you can read his statement below).

Below the jump, you can find Trusheim’s full statement:

The ASSU Elections Commission wishes to make a public statement about the candidacy of “Senior Shore,” a slate seeking election for Senior Class Presidents.

The Elections Commission has determined that changing members of a slate after petitioning is impossible, and has not allowed Senior Shore to formally change their slate’s makeup on the ballot after their submission of a Declaration of Intent and successful petition signatures. The ballot and Voter Guide both reflect the original four candidates, as declared on 2/11/2011. In short, the slate’s makeup has not formally changed, and appears on the ballot and Voter Guide as it appeared on the initial Declaration of Intent: with Taylor Goodspeed, Adrian Castillo, Marie Caligiuri de Jesus, and Cody Sam. The slate is valid as originally declared, and may seek to be elected as Senior Class Presidents. Allegations of voter fraud, a specific term used in the ASSU Joint Bylaws, are entirely unfounded, and the Elections Commission has determined that the Senior Class Presidents election is valid.

The Elections Commission researched the situation when it was brought to our attention, and informed the candidate group that they may not change the members of their slate after petitioning to appear on the ballot. After learning about this fact, the slate’s members have not asked to formally withdraw their signatures on their Declaration of Intent; as a result, Senior Shore is still considered a slate for ASSU Senior Class Presidents under the ASSU bylaws, with the four people originally declared. These facts are enough to satisfy the legal definition of a “slate” under the ASSU Constitution, Joint Bylaws, and Undergraduate Senate bylaws. Senior Shore is a valid slate seeking office, notwithstanding any other facts. The Elections Commission has therefore not removed Senior Shore from the ballot, and considers the election valid.

However, the situation is made more complicated because members of the slate did express intent to change the composition of their slate after voting had concluded (and if the slate is elected). That fact does not have bearing on the legal eligibility of the slate or their original Declaration of Intent; the four original candidates would be elected by voters and then step down later. However, the Elections Commission felt it this is a matter that voters would find important when making their decisions for Senior Class Presidents.

Unfortunately, because this matter arose on April 5, about 48 hours before polls opened, the slate could not get a chance to explain their situation on the ballot without a special policy dispensation. As a result, the Elections Commission worked expeditiously with the office of Student Activities and Life (SAL) and both Senior Class President slates to design an equitable solution for both slates that attempts to communicate the situation, and the slate’s intentions, clearly with voters.* The Elections Commission therefore added a statement to Senior Shore’s ballot item after the deadline for changing ballot statements had closed for all candidates. Once again, this was an exception to standard policy, and we discussed the matter with the slate in question, its opposing slate, and the administrators that advise Class Presidents. The statement appears at the top of the information provided about the slate on the ballot, attempts to neutrally convey the situation, and reads:

Statement from the ASSU Elections Commission: Two members of this slate, Marie Caligiuri de Jesus and Cody Sam, have agreed to be replaced without serving as Senior Class Presidents. The slate has indicated that Grace Jones will be one of the replacement Senior Class Presidents on this slate.

To reiterate and clarify, these members have not withdrawn their names from their slate’s Declaration of Intent, and they are still the four candidates that voters may elect on the ballot; they do however, wish to be replaced, if elected, by the appropriate procedure. This was an important fact that the Elections Commission made an exception to standard policy to reflect on the ballot. We did this in accordance with our duties as specified in the Constitution, Joint Bylaws, and Undergraduate Senate bylaws.

The names of the members formally declared as part of the slate are available at the top of the information section about the candidates, are listed on the Voter Guide, and are used in all official contexts.
I hope this explains the circumstances around the slate’s candidacy. Please be in touch if you have comments, concerns, or questions. We welcome any and all feedback to [email protected] Election results will be announced today at 5:00 PM at the CoHo.
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