I have not historically been a supporter of the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, which greatly relaxed campaign finance restrictions. That is, until I watched the debacle that is this university’s regulation of student elections.
UT has something called the “Election Supervisory Board,” a Soviet-sounding entity with the intentions and track record to match. The Politburo — erg, I mean the ESB — hears complaints against candidates that can be filed by anyone. If they determine that the candidate has deviated in any way from the ludicrously byzantine election code, they can levy absurdly punitive punishments, including total disqualification. In 2012, a candidate’s disqualification landed in the real court system.
The ESB was a major component of my decision to term last year’s Student Government elections as conduct befitting of a banana republic. Unfortunately, the ignominious reign of UT San Lorenzo has marched on triumphantly into this new year as well.
Last Monday, the ESB heard a complaint against SG chief of staff Isaiah Carter, who will compete in this week’s runoff election for executive alliance as a presidential candidate. The great supposed offense for the ESB was emailing prospective campaign staffers too early, not using a list of student information not meant for campaign purposes. Alas, campaigning too early is the cardinal offense in Bokononism, here on San Lorenzo.
The fake lawyer — um, I mean advocate — representing the complainant heralded that the ESB was responsible for upholding “due process.” I couldn’t help but to roll my eyes. Carter was at the concluding portion of the hearing, not allowed to defend himself against allegations and appeared to be unable to call witness on his behalf. But we mustn’t question the supreme arbiters of due process!
In the end, Carter’s campaign was prohibited from campaigning for a short interval because of this phony scandal. But the coup de grâce occurred Thursday when the ticket of Blake Burley and Robert Guerra, another executive alliance candidacy, was summarily disqualified for not timely filing financial disclosures. Burley-Guerra did not make the runoff, meaning that the ESB did not usurp the democratic choice. But after voting closed, and without a hearing, they determined that one executive alliance candidate and nine other candidates were unacceptable to their delicate sensibilities.
Was Burley given a warning? Was he given an opportunity to rectify the situation? No, he was not. The due process deciders determined that was not important to them.
Those voices seeking reform of SG should look inward to the Soviet-style delegitimizing and chilling of the electoral process. The ESB, interpreting and enabled by an inane, ridiculous election code, institutes its punitive retributions with unbounded capriciousness. It makes a mockery of the entire process by ensuring both SG insularity and its disdain from a majority of the student body.
The ESB has now done their best to ruin two campus-wide elections in a row. I pray that whoever succeeds Kevin Helgren and Binna Kim helps put an end to this travesty once and for all.
Horwitz is a first-year law student from Houston. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @NmHorwitz.