Six Student Association candidates whom the Joint Elections Committee removed from the ballot last week will present their case to the student court Sunday afternoon.
The court rejected Tuesday a request by presidential candidate Phil Meisner, executive vice presidential candidate Cat Sadler and four SA Senate candidates for an injunction, leaving the candidates’ status unclear a week before the March 3-4 elections.
The injunction asked the court to temporarily return the candidates to the ballot until the dispute is settled.
The JEC removed the candidates from the ballot last week because Meisner arrived late to a mandatory candidates meeting.
According to JEC rules, any candidate who arrives more than 15 minutes late to the meeting can be removed from the ballot. Meisner was the proxy for the other five candidates, although JEC members say they never received senatorial candidate Heath Hanson’s proxy form.
But Meisner, Sadler and Senate candidates Elizabeth Cox, Liz Foo, Sarah Franklin and Hanson said the JEC treated them unfairly in determining their violations and penalties, and want the court to overrule the decision.
JEC Chair Kevin Burkett said the JEC denied the candidates’ second appeal Monday, choosing to receive a final resolution from the student court.
“We denied the appeal just to have the court settle things for once and for all,” he said.
The candidates filed the injunction and a brief with the student court Tuesday morning, requesting they be returned to the ballot. Included in the brief is an outline of a variety of procedural points the candidates say the JEC did not follow when it rendered its decisions.
According to the brief, the JEC “used an inaccurate measure of time in ruling that (Meisner) appeared actually more than 15 minutes late.”
The candidates say Burkett violated the JEC’s charter by announcing during the mandatory meeting that they committed a violation and would be subject to a hearing to determine eligibility. They said the JEC held the first hearing without Meisner “with the committee acting as judge, jury and prosecution, a clear violation of the rights of due process provided by U.S. law.”
“The bias against us is ridiculous,” Sadler said. “All we’re trying to do is run a clean, fair campaign.”
“The JEC maintains that it has made its best effort to hold hearings that are as fair and procedurally correct as humanly possible,” JEC counsel Kim McCaughey said.
According to the brief, the JEC’s decision is biased in part because of the relationship between SA Executive Vice President Jesse Strauss and Burkett. Burkett has served as parliamentarian in the SA, a position appointed by Strauss, who is supporting another presidential candidate, according to the brief.
Strauss said he is concerned about the nature of the claim, and said it raises questions about the validity of the brief as a whole. Strauss said he plans to file an amicus brief to the student court Saturday detailing his concern.
“This is slander,” Strauss said. “Based on the unsupported account about me, the content of this entire brief is suspect.”
Meisner said Strauss is abusing his position by campaigning and postering for SA presidential candidate Alexis Rice.
“It’s not surprising to me that Jesse Strauss is filing a brief against us,” Meisner said.
Jeff Marootian, acting counsel for the candidates, said he does not view the report’s claims as slanderous.
Marootian and Sadler said a request for a settlement was filed Tuesday night, requesting the JEC fine the candidates instead of taking the case to court. But resolving the case out of court may not be possible.
GW Assistant Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Mike Gargano said he believes a settlement may violate the JEC charter, and the situation may need to be resolved in student court.
“To my knowledge, there has been no formal settlement presented to us,” McCaughey said.
Marootian said it is possible the JEC will overturn its earlier decision and place the candidates back on the ballot with no fine, which would be allowed constitutionally.