Board to seek legal advice on ASPSU elections dispute

Tensions ran high at a May 3 Elections Board meeting when supporters of Rudy Soto, winner of the student body presidency by popular vote, pleaded that the board seek legal advice on the matter of Soto’s ineligibility as a candidate.

Tensions ran high at a May 3 Elections Board meeting when supporters of Rudy Soto, winner of the student body presidency by popular vote, pleaded that the board seek legal advice on the matter of Soto’s ineligibility as a candidate.

The Elections Board voted to seek legal advice from the Oregon Department of Justice, saying that they were unsure about the legality of a Judicial Board decision that declared Soto ineligible for the presidency. The Judicial Board ruled him ineligible because he dropped below the six credits required for eligibility by the ASPSU constitution.

The Elections Board will meet after the Department of Justice analyzes the situation and gives advice to the board, which is expected to happen sometime next week.

Around 50 students packed into the office of the Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU). Several students became increasingly angry as the meeting progressed, calling the Elections Board incompetent and asking them to confirm Soto because he won the popular vote.

Near the end of the meeting, student Sen. Steven Schall interrupted Soto’s opponent, Patrick Beisell, by telling him to “shut the fuck up.”

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” said Ethan Gross, Elections Board chair.

“Make me,” Schall replied.

Students accused Gross of illegally leaking information about Soto’s ineligibility to opponent Patrick Beisell and the Vanguard. Gross denied giving private information to anyone.

Gross told the Vanguard on April 20 that Soto was ineligible due to Article III, Section 5 of the ASPSU constitution. The section states: “All students elected or appointed, standing as candidates for office…shall be required to be students in good standing, as defined by the university, and to enroll in and complete at least six credits [sic] hours each quarter, excluding Educational Activity Leadership Credits….”

Soto was elected student body president by the popular vote during student government elections in the third week of spring term. The Elections Board initially voted to approve Soto as president-elect, but the decision was appealed and struck down by the Judicial Board.

The Judicial Board said approving Soto as the president-elect was unconstitutional.

Students also voted April 20 to change the 2007-08 constitution so that only four credits were required to hold office in ASPSU. Soto was registered for less than six-credits for a period of time during the elections, but the Elections Board voted 2-1 on April 20 to validate his presidency because they were unsure of which constitution to follow.

Portland State has a four-week add/drop period each term, which Soto has said was the reason he dropped below the six-credit requirement. Soto is currently enrolled in 12 credits.

Hours after the Elections Board announced Soto’s victory on April 20, Beisell filed the appeal to the Judicial Board, asking them to invalidate the election results. The Judicial Board sent the results back to the Elections Board the following week, with the instructions to declare Soto ineligible as a candidate, which would put the only other candidate, Beisell, into office.

The Judicial Board is the highest office in student government and their decision is binding.

Ryan Klute, former student body vice president and a supporter of Soto, said at the May 3 meeting that he thinks the constitution should be upheld. He said that the constitution gives Soto the right to add and drop classes during the first four weeks of the term.

“I’m not asking you to interpret your constitution,” Klute said to the Elections Board members. “I’m asking you to uphold your constitution.”

A letter Klute gave to Elections Board members says that not allowing Soto to add or drop classes within the add/drop period of the first four weeks of the term violates Article II, Section 4 of the ASPSU constitution.

Article II, Section 4 states: “No agency or program of ASPSU can make any rule or take any action abridging the privileges and immunities of any person or program under the constitution and laws of the United States, the state of Oregon, the rules of the Oregon University System, the rules of Portland State University, and the ASPSU constitution.”

The letter says that not allowing Soto to drop below six credits during the normal add/drop period is unconstitutional because it infringes on Soto’s rights as a student.

Some members of the three-person Elections Board voiced concern about invalidating Soto as a candidate. Member Tara Lundberg said she thinks Soto is eligible because he is currently enrolled in 12 credits.