Apr 172008
 
Authors: J. David McSwane

The student Supreme Court ruled Wednesday to dismiss the first ever appeal to a student government election, sidestepping an arduous hearing process and the prospect of launching another election weeks before finals.

The Associated Students of CSU justices debated for an hour about the appeal, which challenged the legitimacy of the recent election, claiming negligence, preferential treatment and other alleged improprieties involving campaign finance rules.

But the court never examined evidence offered in the appeal, instead focusing on whether Edward Modec, the student who filed the appeal, was technically considered a student by ASCSU – a requirement to submit appeals of the elections process.

The Constitution stipulates that only students enrolled in six credits and who are paying full-time student fees can submit appeals. Although Modec is paying full-time fees, he’s only enrolled in three credit hours, after withdrawing from another class.

In a 3-2 vote, justices ruled to scrap the appeal before ever taking it to an official elections protest hearing.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” said Modec, a former Supreme Court chief justice and four-year ASCSU member. “The student government always claims they’re transparent. . It seems to me over the past 24 hours they’ve just been trying to find a way out. That makes me angry.”

In his appeal filed Tuesday, Modec charges that Elections Manager Emily Laue and the Elections Committee “defied the ASCSU Constitution” in docking the fair market value of a free concert Taylor Smoot, president-elect, and Quinn Girrens, vice president-elect, hosted on the plaza last month to garner voter support.

That expenditure, Modec said, should have placed Smoot and Girrens above their $2,000 campaign spending limit, effectively disqualifying them from the race.

Modec said he intends to either fight the Supreme Court’s ruling or to file another appeal with a qualified co-author.

“I’m trying to make the organization better,” he said. “This needs to happen.”

The ruling raises several questions regarding the ASCSU Constitution and Elections Code, including the issue of which students are represented by the student government.

Wednesday’s interpretation sets precedent that all students taking less than six credits at any given point are not recognized by ASCSU and are therefore devoid of representation, despite possibly paying student fees that fund the organization.

“There’s contradicting clauses here,” said Cari Stepstay, Supreme Court chief justice, in the meeting. “It’s limited to our interpretation . this might be a bridge we want to cross next year (when ASCSU reviews the Constitution).”

In his interpretation, Associate Justice Dan Gearhart seemed confident that the Constitution disqualified Modec’s appeal, comparing the voting rights of U.S. citizens with context to ASCSU policy.

“I think (at CSU) a citizen is defined as a six-credit student,” Gearhart said.

But Associate Justice Kimberly Hinton disagreed, arguing that all students of CSU should be aloud to petition under ASCSU’s student bill of rights, which guarantees “accessible and productive representation by student government” to all CSU students.

“I don’t see why ASCSU would want to exclude part-time students,” she said.

Girrens, who attended the meeting, commended the Supreme Court for an “excellent job” interpreting the ASCSU Constitution – disqualifying the appeal that threatened her vice presidency – but expressed concern that another appeal will be filed before the Saturday deadline.

“At first, this was a little bit of a shock, and (I’m) just waiting to understand how this affects us,” she said. “Right now, we’re just doing business as usual.”

Smoot echoed a similar sentiment Wednesday, but expressed frustration that he felt Modec only filed the appeal because he had loyalties to another campaign — for Zane Guilfoyle and Seth Walter.

“He was an active, active campaigner for Zane and Seth,” Smoot said.

Modec denies ever working for the Zane and Seth campaign.

“I was not an active campaign member,” Modec said. “I’m intimately involved with (all of the campaigns).”

Laue declined comment Wednesday.

Editor-in-Chief J. David McSwane can be reached at editor@collegian.com

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