Judicial Board majority opinion on election results

On 20 April at about 8:30 am the Elections Board met in executive session to review the eligibility of students standing as candidates in the ASPSU election,

Editors note: This is a formal majority opinion released by Judicial Board Chief Justice Keith Creech on May 1st, 2007.

Statement of Opinion: Matter 07-29Majority Opinion: Chair Keith Creech; Justice Alex Hosford and Justice Joe Rood concurring

On 20 April at approximately 8:30 a.m. the Elections Board met in executive session to review the eligibility of students standing as candidates in the ASPSU election. At that time they were informed that one student on the ballot, Rudy Soto, a candidate for president, was not an eligible candidate. They took no action; and, several hours later, they elected by a 2-1 vote (over the objection of the chair) to validate the results of the election and declare Rudy Soto the winner. The Matter before us is an appeal, submitted by Patrick Beisell, a candidate for president, to challenge the actions of the Election Board, On 26 April. The Constitution and Judicial Review Board decided the Matter and ruled unanimously in favor of the petitioner.

I. On 20 April it was discovered that Rudy Soto was enrolled in less than the obligatory minimum of “six credit hours … excluding Educational Activity Leadership Credits” necessary for “students standing for office” (Article III. 5). It has been argued that this obligatory minimum should have no bearing in this case, as in the recent election a revised constitution was passed which has lowered the minimum number of credits. However, such an interpretation is in clear contravention to Article XII. 6 reading: “Constitutional amendments and other ballot measures are binding on all agencies or programs of ASPSU. The amendments and ballot measures shall go into effect immediately upon validation by the Election Board if those results show a majority of voters favor adoption of the amendment or measure.” The Election Board was informed of Rudy Soto’s ineligibility before they validated the results of the election; thus, the revised constitution was plainly not yet in effect. The revised constitution has no bearing on this case. Moreover, such a move would clearly chose new rules to fit an old election. The obligatory minimum of credit hours was enforced both explicitly and implicitly by the Elections Board throughout the election, At candidate orientation meetings students wishing to stand for office were informed that they would be unable to do so unless they complied with the eligibility requirements. Eligibility was checked on 11 April, and all students found in contravention of Article III. 5 were denied admittance to the ballot, Article VII. 4 of the Election Board Bylaws clearly prohibits the Board from changing its policies “between the First Candidate Orientation and the announcement of election results.” Thus, it would impose a warrantless double standard for it to be found that Rudy Soto was an eligible candidate, when in fact other students in similar circumstances were denied. The imposition of this double standard is clearly prohibited the Election Board by Article I. 1 of the their Bylaws, which mandate that all students must be allowed “an equal opportunity to present their views and qualifications to [the ASPSU] for elections,”

It has also been argued that that the eligibility requirements for students under Article III. 5 are in contravention of the “privileges and immunities” clause of Article II. 4 of the Constitution. This argument, presented by the respondent (Rudy Soto) urges that because students are allowed, per Portland State policy, to add and drop classes until 27 April, that they cannot be found to have failed to have enrolled in a sufficient number of credits until that date. This argument is found specious. No action taken by the either the Judicial Board, nor the Elections Board, to mandate that students standing on the ballot must meet certain mandatory minimum requirements, mandated by the Constitution, for running for office has in any way interfered with the right of students to adjust their schedules up to the deadline. Rather, what is necessary is that said students do not fall below the mandatory minimum; it is always possible, and certainly allowable, to drop classes, provided that said students ensure to add credits before dropping them. As a practical matter, respondent urges that the Election Board should take no action to verify the eligibility of candidates until 27 April, a clear impossibility given the tangible deadlines mandated to the Board in their Bylaws. Moreover, such a circumstance would create a scenario where there would be a substantial disadvantage for any serious candidate to enroll in any classes until after the elections – as they would be burdened by the need to attend class, and therefore less free to campaign – a plain contravention of the intent behind the enrollment requirements in the Constitution. The promise to take credits is not a substitute for taking them. II. As has been stated above, the Matter before us is an appeal submitted for relief against an action taken by the Elections Board. Article IX. 4.3 of the Constitution states that “Rulings of the Election Board may be appealed to the Constitutional and Judicial Review Board.” This jurisdiction is further stated in the Elections Board Bylaws Article VI. 8 “Interpretation of these Bylaws by the Election Board may be appealed to the Judicial Board.” We find that we are granted full jurisdiction to void an action of the Election Board, and demand a new course of action. We find that the Elections Board was in error not to find Rudy Soto ineligible before validating the results of the elections; thus, we void the validation of the results, with instruction.

Article II. 6 of the Election Board Bylaws states that “A candidate appearing on the ballot shall be defined as any student running for a position of service who meets the requirements of these Bylaws and the ASPSU Constitution.” Under this definition, Rudy Soto was not a candidate appearing on the ballot. Article III. 4. 1 states that: “Any candidate found ineligible to seek election to an ASPSU office shall be so notified by the Elections Board. He/She shall be considered to have withdrawn from the elections and have his or her name removed from the ballot. Any votes cast for that candidate shall be considered invalid.” We instruct the Elections Board to enforce the above clause: having found Rudy Soto an ineligible candidate, any votes cast for him are to be considered invalid.

It is with great difficulty, and some sadness, that the Board reaches this decision today. As a matter of interpreting the Constitution, the decision today is not difficult; however, we find it tragic that matters should have been allowed to proceed so far. All students of ASPSU are wronged when students present themselves as candidates while not meeting the requirements demanded of them.