Isabella Southwick smiles in the Student Senate office at the Kansas Union

Student Senate Policy and Development Director Isabella Southwick filed an elections code violation complaint to push back the filing deadline for independent candidates in the upcoming election.

Two students who want to run for student body president and student body vice president are requesting the governing body for elections postpone filing deadlines, as the novel coronavirus has forced many in University of Kansas governance to re-evaluate current procedures.

In their complaints, Isabella Southwick, Student Senate’s policy and development director, and William Wilk, a journalism and mass communications senator, requested the Elections Commission move the filing deadline for independent candidates and appealed the requirement for 500 signatures due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Student Senate Elections Commission will hear their complaints March 28 at 6 p.m. via Zoom. 

“We are seeking to make the elections a bit more equitable and more representative of diverse student voices,” Southwick said. “Just because of extenuating circumstances due to COVID-19, we missed some deadlines, and therefore, we’re filing a complaint, and we’re hoping it’ll be heard tomorrow.” 

Southwick and Wilk were developing platforms but were waiting for the commission to make a final decision regarding elections before officially filing, according to their complaints. The complaint also said the requirement for 500 signatures is unattainable for the candidates due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Additionally, because Student Senate’s rulebook defines “days” as days in which classes are normally in session, Southwick and Wilk’s complaints argue that current election code deadlines are unenforceable. 

The filing deadline for presidential and vice presidential tickets “shall be” 5 p.m. on the Monday that is three calendar weeks prior to the week of the election, according to the Student Senate Election Code. Based on the Student Senate Executive Committee’s decision to move the election to April 19 to 25, that would also move the deadline for independent candidates to March 30. 

“We greatly appreciate the work of the Executive Committee and the Elections Commission to ensure that the election can continue, but the lack of action prior did not account for the need to adjust the independent deadline,” Southwick and Wilk both wrote in their complaints. 

If their appeal is approved, Southwick and Wilk would be the first two independent candidates to run in the 2020 race. Free Staters is currently the only coalition running in the election. 

“These are unprecedented times, and we’re going to have to make some decisions based on that,” Elections Commission Chair Wyatt Risovi-Hendrickson said. “There is not really a pandemic section built into SSRR on what to do in these instances. It’s very vague in terms of what to do in emergencies for the most part, so it really just comes down to we’re going to have to make do with the best possible option and go from there.” 

The commission also heard a self-reported elections code violation complaint against Free Staters last Thursday over Zoom concerning the coalition’s lack of ability to acquire the signature requirement by the deadline and schedule a cultural competency training due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I hope [the hearing] has a positive outcome,” Southwick said. “I think that allowing independent candidates to run will be a good way to add more diversity of thought to the elections.”