ASASU Supreme Court hears, decides last minute USG campaign complaints

Elections Department to investigate results of The College election and gives no additional infraction points to Palmer executive ticket

The Associated Students for ASU Supreme Court heard two last-minute complaint cases as students voted digitally in Undergraduate Student Government races across all four campuses Wednesday. 

The court said it will investigate the results of the senate election for The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and, siding with the Elections Department, announced they would not issue additional infraction points to an executive ticket running in Tempe who reposted "copyrighted" material. Instead, the court said all executive tickets violated the elections code and would face no punishment. 

Use of the court and number of complaints filed this cycle is unprecedented in USG election history, along with rescheduling of campaigning and a completely online system of voting.  

READ MORE: ASASU Supreme Court issues rulings upholding USG election code

Only a few days after campaigning began, an executive ticket sustained six infraction points after they were accused of campaigning before the official start date.

Robinson v. Elections Department

Clay Robinson, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences senatorial candidate and a freshman studying economics and civic and economic thought and leadership, filed a complaint Wednesday after his name was left off the initial ballot voted on by students. 

READ MORE: Ballots for The College students reset due to technical issue

USG Tempe and the Elections Department asked 243 students who voted before 6:30 a.m. Tuesday to do so again on a correct ballot with all senators included. The Elections Department said they had no control over the ballots in an email to The College students, saying they had tested them prior to the voting period. 

In his complaint, Robinson said the initial response from the Elections Department "seemed adequate, however, upon further review, several election code violations had taken place and call into question the integrity of the election cycle."

The complaint cites the election code which says candidates are given a 48-hour period in which to culminate votes. Robinson outlines how other senatorial candidates outside of The College had the full 48 hours, while students in The College were only given 41.5 hours because ballots were resent at 6:30 a.m. 

"It must be noted that there are no provisions in the bylaws that protect a candidate's rights to a fair race with equal opportunity to be voted for," the complaint says. Robinson also pointed out a lack of provisions for online voting in the code.

The court sided with Robinson, agreeing in their opinion that while the Elections Department's response seems adequate and the mistake was no one's fault, it did not take into account the lost hours of voting time. 

The court ordered that an investigation of election results be conducted and outlines conditions for the possibility of a special election. If results show a "probable disadvantage" to Robinson or if it shows he lost by fewer than 243 votes, a special election should be conducted on the same day as a possible executive ticket run-off. 

Fees v. Palmer

The Fees executive ticket, with Max Fees for president, Emma Short for vice president of services and Jack Fuller for vice president of policy, filed a complaint against the Palmer executive ticket that has Jacqueline Palmer for president, Josh Freid for vice president of services and Kajol Kapadia for vice president of policy.

The Fees ticket claimed the Palmer ticket had violated the election code by using University copyrighted images on campaign materials through social media. The violation would have disqualified them with an additional six infraction points to their campaign, but the Elections Department dismissed the complaint since the original post was not made by a member of the campaign and was simply reposted.

The Fees ticket appealed to the Supreme Court who sided with Palmer, writing in their opinion "the injury sustained by the Fees and Leveque tickets were so insignificant as to warrant a decision in Palmer’s favor."

Through submitted evidence, the court found all three executive tickets violated the copyright rule at some point during their campaign. The court did not dismiss the infraction but said injury to other tickets was so small it did not warrant punishment. 

Ultimately, the court decided that reposted content does not violate the copyright rule and the content under question was posted "out of goodwill and without malice." 

As they concluded the opinion, the court suggested as campaigns begin to utilize digital platforms and social media to spread their message, the election code must be updated to reflect the challenges that tickets face and the difference between what is and what isn't campaign material.


Reach the reporter at pjhanse1@asu.edu and follow @piperjhansen on Twitter. 

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