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Student Senate to redo presidential election

April 29, 2010

The election for Student Senate president has been overturned and a new election will need to take place. The candidates who will be on the ticket are Nikki Shonoiki and Lee Monson, and voting should hopefully occur finals week, according to Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Gregg Heinselman.

Candidate Tyler Latz had won the presidential vote, but withdrew from the race.

Heinselman was asked to review the elections in the wake of an ethics complaint filed against Shonoiki.

“Upon review of the Student Association election materials and issues, I have determined that… it is difficult to declare a Student Senate president,” Heinselman said in an e-mail sent to Paul Shepherd, director of student life, and Chancellor Dean Van Galen. “I suggest that a new election be conducted this spring, the week of May 10.”

The complaint against Shonoiki was filed April 12 by former Senate President Josh Brock and former Senate Elections Chair Rodney Hillskotter.

According to Shonoiki, the complaint claimed she was in violation of Student Senate Election Rules Section C, General Campaign No. 9: “Campaign material cannot be posted until the petition due date has expired. Violation of such rule will be subject to penalty.” The petition due date for this election cycle was April 12.

The evidence used in the complaint were two audio files of a radio interview conducted by WRFW News Director Jamie Babb of Shonoiki from March 3; a written transcript of that interview; and an e-mail sent April 2 by Shonoiki to the student organization Rise Up for Women’s Rights.

The Election Rules define campaigning as: “Any activity that is intended to influence voting at an election.”
Shonoiki said neither her radio interview, which never aired on WRFW, or e-mail to Rise Up was intended to influence voter’s decisions.

“There was no intent to influence anyone,” she said. “[The e-mail] was directed toward potential candidates and it was intended to encourage students to run for Senate, not influence people to vote for Senate.”

The penalty sought by Brock and Hillskotter was to remove Shonoiki from the Senate election ballot and to not allow her to run as a write-in candidate.

The issue first went to the Ethics Committee, which failed to uphold the complaint with a 1-1-1 vote; a unanimous vote against Shonoiki was needed to remove her from the ballot.

The case was appealed by Brock and went to the Senate. The Senate voted to uphold the ethics complaint in a 10-4-3 vote at the April 20 meeting. According to Senate bylaws, Shonoiki then had the opportunity to seek mediation between her, Brock, Hillskotter and the Ethics Committee Chair Cullen Pederson. That mediation session was scheduled for April 22. According to Shonoiki, only she and Pederson showed up.

According to Shepherd, since mediation failed, the next step was impartial, third party arbitration by a University staff member. Heinselman was asked to be that arbiter. The arbiter reviews the case, has the option to talk to all the parties involved and has the authority to issue a final decision.

While the appeals process was underway, the Student Senate general election was held. Shonoiki lost the vote to Latz with a final tally of 320-229. Before the polls closed on April 23, however, Latz officially removed himself from the presidential race.

“I am a University Center building manager,” Latz said in an e-mail interview. “As the presidential race was drawing to an end, I was asked to meet with my supervisors and questions were asked about if I could truly do justice to both roles at the same time… we found compromise. I withdrew from the presidential race, but I am still able to represent the students as an at-large Senator.”

This action made Shonoiki, by default, the president-elect.

However, at Tuesday’s Student Senate meeting, Heinselman announced his decision to overturn the election results and force a second presidential election. In the meantime, Senator Jordan Harshmann has been appointed the interim student senate president for a period of two weeks.

“In an effort to make these presidential elections a fair as possible, after dealing with an ethics complaint against one candidate and the other withdrawing, I decided that the best way to proceed was simply to redo the election,” Heinselman said.

Complicating the issue further is the fact that Hillskotter, the elections chair, was asked to step down from his position at Tuesday’s meeting, also for violating Senate election rules. The new presidential election cannot happen until a new elections chair is appointed, something Shepherd said should be done at the May 4 meeting.

Once a new elections chair is appointed, that person can solidify plans and guidelines for the new election. According to Shepherd, an e-mail will be sent out to students instructing them on the details of when that election will be held and how they can vote.

Comments

Chris Steines on 01 May 2010: Another election? Around finals week? When everybody will be working on final projects and studying for final exams ... and thus probably not paying attention? Ridiculous.