For the next year, the student government will be controlled by a group of candidates who, almost universally, received only a minority of the votes cast.- How did that happen?- How did the election rules allow that to happen?- Why were several thousand KU students disenfranchised?
One thing is clear: the rules must be changed. - -
The Grow KU slate assumed office Wednesday after winning barely 30 percent of the votes.- Student Senate only adopted the Election Code that governed the election last fall, and its inadequacies are already evident. The Jayhawkers were found guilty of failing to report paying about $350 for food for a campaign event for about 60 potential voters.- As the Elections Commission and the Judicial Board Appeals Panel have told us, the Election Code mandates disqualification - capital punishment - for filing an inaccurate campaign finance report.- No lesser penalty is allowed.- What would happen if a report contained a misspelling?- Transposed letters?- That would make the report inaccurate, wouldn't it?
The Elections Commission disqualified the entire Jayhawker slate on April 8, literally on the eve of the April 9 election.- To add to the confusion, the Elections Commission left Jayhawker candidates on the ballot.- Voters would think that candidates on the ballot are, actually, eligible to be elected.
The Elections Commission ruled against the Jayhawkers, even though the Commission was in violation of the rule that the Elections Commission should not have members formerly associated with student government.- Two of the five Elections Commission members who decided to disqualify the Jayhawker slate were former student senators. It appears that the Elections Commission only allowed each side 15 minutes to present their case, and the Commission failed to record or take minutes of the proceeding. Such an important case justified more effort.
The appeal process was similarly confusing.- The Student Senate Court of Appeals could not gather a quorum to hear the case, so without a hearing it “punted” the case up to the Judicial Board.- The Judicial Board Appeals Panel, which consists of University faculty, refused to allow the press or the public to attend its hearing, in violation of state law that mandates that administrative boards be open to the public, except for the part of the proceeding in which the members deliberate after hearing the parties' arguments.- The Judicial Board Appeals Panel “recommended” that the Elections Commission disqualification decision be upheld.
Recommended to whom?- According to the University, that “recommendation” was the last step in the process.- And it appears the Judicial Board violated the rules by considering information not presented in the Elections Commission hearing, including a harshly-worded response from the Elections Commission to the Jayhawker appeal. - The Judicial Board has summarily refused to reconsider its “recommendation.”
Everyone should follow the process.- That didn't happen here.- We are left with minority student government.- No tanks in the street, no revolt.- That's good.- But should this be allowed to happen again?- No.
We recommend the following:
- Grow KU's slate should demonstrate leadership by treating the actual winners of the vote tabulation, Jayhawkers, as a shadow government.- Consult with the Jayhawker slate before taking any momentous actions.- Be inclusive.- Do the right thing.- After all, you lost by a landslide.
- Student Senate should expeditiously move to revise the Election Code to allow for measured penalties for campaign violations.
- Student Senate should take advantage of the opportunity presented by this debacle.- Show leadership.- Expand the tent.- Make lemonade out of lemons.- We'll be watching.
- Written by Mark Johnson for the Kansan Editorial Board.-
Johnson is a lawyer and a partner in the Kansas City office of the Dentons US LLP law firm. He has been an adjunct professor in the School of Journalism since 2008 and the School of Law since 2010. He is also the chairman of the Kansan Board of Directors. Election law and campaign finance is one of his areas of expertise.