The Student Senate executive staff – Morgan Said, a senior from Kansas City, Mo., Miranda Wagner, a senior from Shawnee, and their hired officers – has been removed from office.
Emma Halling, a senior from Elkhart, Ind. and former student body vice president, is acting as interim student body president until new leadership is determined with a re-election.
In a decision released Friday, the University Judicial Board Appeals Panel overrode the results of the current Student Senate election and required a re-election of Student Senate positions, including President Said and Vice President Wagner, in the coming weeks.
The Panel met Wednesday to hear an appeal that argued that the results were distorted because all votes for Jayhawkers, whose members were disqualified in April, were not counted. The Panel agreed in its decision and determined the Elections Commission should hold a re-election.
“We conclude that the only reasonable reading of the Election Code is that, first, the election results were ‘materially altered by a violation of the Code,’ and, second, a new election is required,” the Panel said in its decision, signed by chair Thomas Stacy and Panel members Michelle Ginavan Hayes and Lisa Wolf-Wendel.
The decision says the Commission has flexibility in determining the rules of the new election:
“We stress that although the Code plainly requires a new election in cases such as this, it does not specify rules for the conduct of such an election. This means that the Commission necessarily has a large range of discretion in adapting and interpreting the Code for this purpose. It also means that many challenges to the Commission’s conduct of the new election must surmount of the very high bar of showing that Commission has abused its discretion.”
The Panel also mentions on page four and five of the decision that “the only reasonable means of eliminating . . . irrelevant guesswork, given that approximately 60% of the voters cast votes for the Jayhawkers candidates, is to ask those voters which eligible candidate they prefer. And the only feasible mechanism for doing this is to hold a new election.”
The appeal heard on Aug. 21 was brought to the Panel by Eli Hymson, a sophomore from Parkland, Fla. It was denied by the Student Senate Court of Appeals on May 2, the 2,662 votes for Jayhawkers were nullified, and Student Senate executive staffmembers took office in May.
The disqualification of Jayhawkers stems from a violation brought to the Commission by Grow KU about an incomplete financial report after a member of the coalition allegedly purchased Chipotle for other members on March 30.
On April 8, the Elections Commission disqualified the entire Jayhawkers coalition. Because this happened the night before the election, Jake Rapp, a graduate student from Lawrence and then-chair of the Commission, said he kept the Jayhawkers on the ballot because they had the right to appeal within 48 hours of the decision, which they filed April 9.
The Student Senate Court of Appeals announced April 10 it would not hear the appeal as there was a potential conflict of interest. It deferred the appeal to the University Judicial Board Appeals Panel, which upheld the decisionto disqualify Jayhawkers on April 24.
The Commission released the unofficial results, which did not include Jayhawkers candidates, on April 27. It certified the election and released the full results, with Jayhawkers included, on April 29.
The full results showed that MacKenzie Oatman, a senior from Wichita, and Mitchell Cota, a senior from Overland Park, presidential and vice presidential candidates for the disqualified Jayhawkers coalition, received 61.4 percent of the vote, Said and Wagner of Grow KU received 31.6 percent, and Kevin Hundelt, a senior from St. Louis, Mo., and Sara Anees, a senior from Wichita, of Crimson & True received 6.9 percent.
Moving forward, the Elections Commission will meet this week to set parameters for the upcoming Student Senate re-election, according to Mark Pacey, a graduate student from Manhattan and the acting chair of the Elections Commission. They will have to decide who is allowed to participate in the re-election. He said he hopes to hold the re-election as soon as possible.
Pacey said he thinks the election will only be between candidates that participated in last year’s election and were not disqualified — meaning only members of Crimson and True and Grow KU — as the decision to disqualify members of Jayhawkers was upheld by the Panel in April. He said at this time, no new coalitions can be formed.
Oatman said she does not believe this is the correct understanding of the Appeals Panel’s decision and would like to see an entirely new election.
“What needs to happen is a new election needs to be held where new candidates can come, new coalitions can form and it doesn’t have to be just the people who were on the ballot. That’s how I read ‘new election,’” Oatman said.
Halling said she plans to meet with Tyler Childress, a law student from Coffeyville and last year’s chief of staff, and Reuben Perez, director of Student Involvement Leadership Center, to clarify the exact course of action based on Student Senate Rules and Regulations.
She said Marcus Tetwiler, a graduate from Paola and last year’s student body president, left in May and for that reason she has stepped into his role. For the same reason, Childress will resume his position as chief of staff.
Said said she is confident in Halling’s ability to lead the student body until a new president is elected.
“I will say that we are complying with what’s been mandated and will continue to have the student body’s interests in mind,” Said said.
March 30: Jayhawkers allegedly purchase Chipotle for students for campaigning purposes at an event, according to the Elections Commission. No account of the alleged purchase is on the Jayhawkers' financial report for the week of March 24 through 30.
Financial reports are part of Senate Rules and Regulations. They are used to make sure coalitions are not exceeding the spending caps set by Rules and Regulations. Incomplete or fraudulent financial reports are considered an ‘egregious violation’ by Rules and Regulations and if a coalition is found responsible.
April 8: Elections Commission ruled that the Jayhawkers Coalition had filed an incomplete, inaccurate, or fraudulent weekly financial report in violation of S.S.R.R. 22.214.171.124.6. The coalition was disqualified from participation reasoning that S.S.R.R. 126.96.36.199.10 makes disqualification the mandatory sanction for this violation.
- April 9 and 10: Elections are held. Jayhawkers remain on the ballot despite disqualification. This was because then-chair Jake Rapp knew that the Jayhawkers had the right to appeal the decision to the Student Senate Court of Appeals. The results of the election were then sealed because the Election Commission did not want it to affect the results of the appeal.
At 9 p.m. on April 10 the Court of Appeals was scheduled to hear the Jayhawkers appeal. At this time the court went into executive session. After about 20 minutes the court returned and ruled that they could not rule on the case because conflict of interest. They recommended that the case go to the University Judicial Board Appeals Panel.
April 23: The University Judicial Board Appeals Panel heard the Jayhawkers appeal. After several injunctions on the results of the election the Commission announced that it would release the results within 48 hours of the Panel releasing its decision.
April 24: University Judicial Board released its decision to uphold the Elections Commission disqualification of Jayhawkers.
April 27: Elections Commission publicly announced the unofficial results of the election - number of votes excluded tabulation of all votes cast for the Jayhawkers candidates. These results listed Morgan Said and Miranda Wagner of Grow KU as the winners of the presidential and vice presidential race.
April 29th - Elections Commission certified the results of the election making them official, which still excluded Jayhawkers candidates. They also released the full results of the election, which showed that the disqualified Jayhawkers had won the presidential election as well as the majority of the senate seats. However, the full results were considered nullified by the Commission.
May 1 - Eli Hymson, a student who voted for Jayhawkers, filed an appeal to the Student Senate Court of Appeals stating that the Jayhawkers received plurality, the Elections Commission should certify Jayhawkers as winner and the results were materially distorted. He then urged the Panel to force the Commission to hold a new election.
May 2 - Student Senate Court of Appeals released a motion that they were dismissing Hymson’s appeal, referring to the appeal as frivolous. This meant that the Court of Appeals would not hear this case or make a decision on it. The Court of Appeals concluded that the alternative remedy of annulment and a new election was unnecessary and impossible at this point in time.
“We conclude that the only reasonable reading of the Election Code is that, first, the election results were ‘materially altered by a violation of the Code’ and, second, a new election is required,” the decision by the Panel said.
August 20: The University Judicial Board Appeals Panel hears Hymson’s earlier appeal. He appeals based on two grounds:
The original appeal to the Court of Appeals was not frivolous;
The Court of Appeals did not have quorum to decide that the appeal was not frivolous.
August 22: The University Judicial Board releases its decision. They call for a new election, and give wide discretion to the Election Commission to set the rules. Later that day Emma Halling became the interim student body president.
There will be an election within senate to determine an interim student body vice president. All of the 2014-2015 executive staff has been removed from office.
Student Senate Terms
Student Senate: The representatives of the student body at the University of Kansas. This includes a student body president, student body vice president and elected representatives from each college within the University as well as appointed senators from groups on campus.
Student Senate Rules and Regulations: A handbook that is the governing text of the Senate.
Coalition: A group of students, under one name, that create platforms and run for election on those platforms. Each coalition has a presidential and vice presidential candidate as well as other senators that are “slated” with the coalition for specific positions.
Grow KU: One of the three coalitions that ran in last year’s election. Grow’s presidential and vice presidential candidates, Morgan Said and Miranda Wagner won the election after the disqualification of the Jayhawkers coalition.
Jayhawkers: Another one of the three coalitions in the spring election. After one member of the coalition allegedly purchased Chipotle for the coalition before a meeting, and left it off the campaign expense report, Grow KU filed a complaint with the Election Commission. The Jayhawkers coalition was disqualified the night before the election. MacKenzie Oatman was the presidential candidate and Mitchell Cota was the vice presidential candidate. Cota now serves as Said and Wagner’s Chief of Staff.
Crimson and True: The third coalition in the election. Presidential candidate Kevin Hundelt and vice presidential candidate Sara Anees led this third party coalition.
Elections Commission: The governing body of Student Senate elections.
Student Senate Court of Appeals: Where all decisions that were decided by the Elections Commission were appealed. This court didn’t hear many cases due to several justices having to recuse themselves for conflicts of interest.
Burritogate: The nickname the student body gave to the spring election and the subsequent appeals process. This stems from the original violation the Jayhawkers committed but often refers to the entire ordeal from start to finish.
UJB: University Judicial Board. This is outside of Senate. Once the Elections Commission made decisions and the Court of Appeals did not have quorum to make decisions, the Jayhawkers appeal went to this court — the final court in the University system. This court ruled the Jayhawkers disqualified, according to Rules and Regulations.
Material distortion: The idea the election or votes had been altered in some way. The argument presented to the UJB on Wednesday was that the votes cast for Jayhawkers didn’t count, and those students had their right to vote silenced, according to the Jayhawkers coalition.
Plurality of the vote: The majority of the vote. A plurality is needed to win a Student Senate election.
Appeals Panel: The specific branch of the University Judicial Board that has been hearing the appeals. The panel is led by chair and law professor Thomas Stacy.
Unofficial election results: The results before they are certified by the Elections Commission.
Official election results: The results after they are certified by the Elections Commission. Both the unofficial and official results named Grow KU the winner and did not show the Jayhawkers votes.
Full results: The results including the Jayhawkers. These were released after the other results were certified. These results detailed the percentage of votes for each coalition. Jayhawkers had 61.4 percent of the vote, a plurality.
Editor's note: This story is developing. Check this article on Kansan.com for updates.
A previous version of this story said the University Judicial Board released the decision. The decision was released by the Appeals Panel, which is a faction of the University Judicial Board. The story has been updated to reflect this change.