The 2007 student government elections have been pushed back to the third week of spring term because the Elections Board voted Wednesday to cancel elections originally slated for next week. Elections Board members made the decision, two to one, because they could not find documentation of numerous candidates having ever attended an orientation meeting in February.
The 2007 student government elections have been pushed back to the third week of spring term because the Elections Board voted Wednesday to cancel elections originally slated for next week.
Elections Board members made the decision, two to one, because they could not find documentation of numerous candidates having ever attended an orientation meeting in February. Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU) Elections Board bylaws declare candidates ineligible to run for office if they do not attend orientation.
The decision is in direct violation of Article IX, Section 1 of the ASPSU constitution, which requires that the elections be held in the ninth week of winter term.
“Ultimately it’s our responsibility to make sure the elections run smoothly,” said student body President Courtney Morse about the elections being canceled. “At this point there is nothing we can do to prevent that. We’re looking forward to making sure we have a smooth process.”
The Elections Board, which has five seats, sets and interprets rules and procedures for student government elections. The board has had four different chairs within the last month and the three current members have served on the board for no more than two weeks.
The elections process will now entirely start over, requiring that each candidate turn in new paperwork and attend orientation. The Elections Board has not yet decided when its next meeting will be, when candidate orientation will be, or on the exact time for the elections.
One chair, Robert Stanley, was arrested Feb. 21 for assaulting three women and one man before he resigned from his position the next day. Two other board members resigned this last Monday.
The Elections Board could have chosen to continue with elections next week, a decision that would have conflicted with the Elections Board bylaws. Board members chose not to continue with the elections because it would have allowed students to run for office who may not have been candidates-the students who may not have attended orientation.
“Regardless of the decision we made, we were breaking rules and alienating people who wanted to run,” said Sean Larkin, a member of the board, Wednesday night. “Portland State, this year, is going through a harsh realization.”
Wendy Endress, dean of students, said she thinks the Elections Board decision to cancel the constitution was the right decision. She said the university would be able to better defend the legality of a decision to cancel the election than a decision to put students on a student government ballot that are not candidates.
“The risk of stepping outside of the constitution is lower than adhering to the constitution in this case,” Edress said. “It’s my impression that very few beyond candidates knew that student government elections were happening.”
Endress said she thinks it is the best decision the board could have made, given the circumstances.
The next meeting of the Elections Board is still undetermined because the newly appointed chair of the board, Ethan Gross, will be in Washington, D.C. with ASPSU at a national student lobby day. If the election had not been canceled, multiple members of ASPSU executive staff would have been in Washington during the elections.
The ASPSU constitution requires that student body President Courtney Morse appoint the Elections Board by Oct. 15, but the board did not start meeting until January. Morse said she takes full responsibility for any committees that were not appointed on time and said the elections were canceled because of the resignations in the elections board.
“Because of various reasons, it didn’t happen in a timely fashion,” Morse said. “These things happen. We are doing everything we can.”
Patrick Beisell, presidential candidate and ASPSU state affairs director, said he does not think pushing the election off will hurt his campaign. He said he is worried about voter turn-out in general, but he does not think moving the elections will hurt turn-out very much.
“Students probably won’t notice that much,” Beisell said. “I think ASPSU is an organization that constantly has strange stuff happening. This year happens to be a little more bizarre than others.”
Rudy Soto, a Student Fee Committee member running for president, said he thinks he would have won the election if it were next week and said that moving the election will change the results. He said it will be easier for Beisell to hold a second campaign because Beisell is part of the ASPSU administration.
“This is really, really hard because it’s like three or four days before the election,” Soto said. “We’ve been working extremely hard from scratch and this wasn’t expected.”
Two student senate candidates, a Student Fee Committee candidate and presidential candidate Dalton Higginbottom were declared ineligible because of credit requirements in the ASPSU constitution.
The board will determine the official dates and times of elections at their next meeting.
–Additional reporting by Steve Haske