Candidates could be fined retroactively for violations of campus election rules, Joint Elections Committee Chair Terry Goddard said this week.
During past elections, candidates have “broken” traditional campaigning rules before the JEC was in place to penalize them, creating a time of limbo with prospective candidates campaigning outside any regulation.
Goddard said the JEC made a decision earlier this week about whether to fine candidates for breaking election rules before these rules have been finalized, but he would not reveal the JEC’s final decision on the matter.
He said the decision will be made public Friday, when the JEC’s final rules are established and fines are posted.
The JEC is charged with formulating the rules that govern Student Association, Program Board and Marvin Center Governing Board campaigns and elections this spring. It issued its preliminary guidelines last week.
Candidates for this year’s elections are required to register with the JEC by Feb. 13. Elections will be held March 3 and 4.
“In the event that ex post facto fining occurs, it will go back as far as JEC members can remember violations,” Goddard said.
Last year’s Student Court ruling in Lewis v. JEC established that students who campaign before officially declaring themselves candidates still are expected to follow campaign rules.
The case came up when then-SA presidential candidate Andrew Lewis, the current vice chair of the JEC, was fined for distributing e-mails and literature in the Smith Center. In his appeal to the Court, he argued that he was not an official candidate at the time of the violation, and therefore not required to comply with JEC rules.
“Any candidate has a reasonable expectation of what the rules are,” Goddard said. “All the things that we are talking about can be assumed to be in the rules.”
Currently the JEC exists only during election season, but with the passage of a new committee charter last month, the JEC will become a permanent entity with an established set of rules, Goddard said.
“I think it’s absolutely right,” SA presidential candidate Patrick Macmanus said of retroactive fines. “When people go out and campaign before the rules are out, they know they’re a candidate and they know there are guidelines to follow.”
Goddard said that if retroactive fines are levied, he anticipates appeals to the Student Court.
“I suspect (JEC counsel) Jonathan Skremetti will be very busy,” Goddard said.
Macmanus said as a candidate, it can be difficult to ensure that all campaign volunteers follow the JEC rules.
“You’re running for an office where you’re planning to lead a large group of people,” Macmanus said. “If you can’t control your campaign staff, I don’t know how you can control your whole constituency.”