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SENATOR ASHLYN SALZMAN v. ELECTIONS BOARD

Associated Students of Washington State University Vancouver Judicial Board

April 10, 2014

 

Background and Facts:

Ms. Salzman filed a formal complaint to the Judicial Board with allegations that the Elections Board violated several Washington State University Vancouver by-laws during the Spring, 2014 ASWSUV Elections.  Four by-laws are alleged to have been violated:

1.  By-law 620.03 which states the polling sites shall be open from 9:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. is said to have been violated according to witness testimonies of the polling stations opening late and closing early throughout the scheduled elections.

2.  By-law 652.01, A, E, which state a poster is defined as “paper printed material placed indoors or outdoors” and “each campaign is allowed to use one (1) poster no larger than eight and one half (8.5) inches by eleven (11) inches” is said to have been violated when a presidential ticket used a banner displaying their brand.

3.  By-law 652.03 which prohibits the use of “gummed handbills or bumper stickers… including adhesive material of any kind” is said to have been violated when the Elections Board allowed candidates to use and distribute stickers featuring the candidate’s brand.  Ms. Salzman questioned the use of stickers, and the Elections Board responded that it deemed stickers as “not an adhesive” and therefore, allowable.

4. By-law 620.04 which prohibits campaign materials from all areas within sight of the polling sites by 8:00 A.M. the morning of the election is said to have been violated with the use of the electronic reader board displaying one presidential ticket’s logo throughout the elections.

 

Jurisdiction

In accordance with By-law 611.03, A, and By-law 410.01, this case was presented properly before the Judicial Board.

In accordance with Associated Students of Washington State University Vancouver Constitutional Article 5, Section 5, the Judicial Board has the authority to act on all cases and controversies under the Constitution and by-laws.  By-law 611.03 allows the Elections Board to interpret the Election Codes whenever necessary and is subject to subsequent appeal to the Judicial Board.  The Elections Board is granted the power and responsibility to enforce the Election Codes to all campaign tickets.  The Judicial Board has jurisdiction for all complaints filed.

 

Reasoning
Chief Justice Nick Trudeau, joined by Associate Justices Steve Klase and Melissa Yetter

Washington State University Vancouver is a small, intimate campus, where many students, both inside and outside of the student government interact regularly with one another.  There were implications that members of the ASWSUV Judicial Board and members of the current and future ASWSUV Senate may not be able to participate in an unbiased fashion because of their interaction with various parties before the case.  The Judicial Board carefully considered these concerns and determined that, in regard to the Board, while each Justice interacted with student candidates, such interaction would not affect deliberation of the case, and that each Justice would be involved in the consideration and determination of this dispute.

Below, we make rulings regarding each allegation:

1.  On campus polling stations were opened late and closed early during the days of the elections.

Reasoning: There was insufficient evidence presented supporting this allegation, as such, the Judicial Board believes that the preponderance of evidence (the standard used to evaluate this claim) does not support this allegation.  The Judicial Board determines that Elections Board did not violate By-law 620.03.

2.  One presidential ticket and two senatorial candidates had posters.

Reasoning: Evidence was presented to the Judicial Board in the form of pictures showing one presidential candidate using a poster.  The by-laws are vague regarding the use of signs or posters as those terms can be synonymous. The Judicial Board supports the Election Board’s interpretation of the by-law. The Judicial Board determines that Elections Board did not violate By-law 625.01, A, E.

3.  Presidential tickets were given permission to use stickers as campaign material by the Elections Board.

Reasoning:  The Judicial Board deemed stickers as an adhesive material.  Though printed brands on t-shirts and beverage labels are adhesive, those adhesives are fixed to their medium prior to distribution.  Stickers, however, are not fixed to a medium prior to distribution. The Judicial Board determines that Elections Board did violate By-law 652.03, A.

 

4.  Campaign materials may not be in view of the polling stations after 8 a.m. on Tuesday [the start of the 2014 elections].

Reasoning:  The Elections Board stated that they were unaware of such a violation.  It is the Judicial Board’s opinion that this violation was the responsibility of the candidates to follow the By-Laws and report any violations at the time of infraction. The evidence provided suggests the violation was reported at the end of the elections, which did not allow the Elections Board to correct a possible violation at the time of occurrence and issue any necessary reprimands. The Judicial Board determines that Elections Board did not violate By-law 620.04.

 

Ruling:

The Judicial Board has decided the outcome of the Spring, 2014 Elections, and the results of the Senatorial, Presidential, and Vice Presidential Candidates will remain as is. While the Elections Board did violate By-law 652.03, A, the Judicial Board cannot determine that there was a substantial impact of such violation to invalidate any part of the elections.

 

Errata:

It is not in the interest of the Judicial Board to continually decide the outcome of the elections.   The Judicial Board has decided the outcome of the 2013 and 2014 elections and anticipates this trend will continue until the Senate takes action to revise the election codes.  The by-laws limit judicial action in a manner in which no outcome is positive.  The Judicial Board recognizes that continually invalidating the election results undermines ASWSUV within the community at large and must be dealt with.  The Judicial Board must, and will continue to, enforce by-laws set forth by the Senate.

Therefore, it is the Senate’s responsibility and obligation to create and amend by-laws to ensure the efficient operation of this government. In this case, the Elections Board was not provided clear jurisdiction where the responsibilities of the Board and candidates reside. The Judicial Board strongly recommends the Senate, as the law-making body of government, revise the election code by-laws before the 2015 Spring Elections, lest this issue occur again in the coming year.

The Judicial Board received correspondence from the legislative and executive branches urging invalidation of a single vote to induce a tie, which goes before the Senate to decide the election winner as detailed in By-law 611.03, O. These actions are entirely inappropriate in the context of an election decided by, and for, the students of Washington State University Vancouver and the Judicial Board will not be swayed by such recommendations.

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