The Joint Elections Committee gained a reputation for being bureaucratic last year, following the unorganized Student Association elections in March 1999.
Throughout the course of the election season, most of the JEC resigned their posts, adding to the confusion surrounding the elections.
But now the SA is re-examining the JEC charter, trying to repent for past sins. Graduate Sen. Jeff Baxter (at large), who served as the chairman of the Election Reform Committee, said the JEC must be reborn to insure the integrity of the elections.
The new charter came about because everyone, regardless of what they thought the solution was, thought it was a problem, Baxter said.
He said the former charter caused a somewhat dirty and tainted election last year.
Last year, former SA President Phil Meisner was taken off the official ballot after missing a meeting.
Baxter called the decision to take Meisner off the ballot necessary because the rules clearly stipulated that if a candidate missed the mandatory meeting, he could not run. But Baxter said the rule was a ridiculous one. Baxter said the new charter would eliminate rules about missed meetings.
The new charter also asks candidates to procure a campaign observer – a campaign-appointed adivser to oversee the fairness of the election process.
When the ballots closed March 3, 1999, the JEC counted the votes, including a slew of write-in ballots for Meisner. In the confusion, the JEC members miscounted and revealed incorrect results and named the wrong candidates victorious in the presidential race and forced a change in the executive vice president run-off election.
As a result, the new charter prohibits the JEC from releasing any preliminary results.
In addition, violation hearings will now be open to the public, and the JEC no longer will investigate anonymous complaints about a particular campaign or candidate.
In the past, hearings had been closed, but Baxter said open meetings are a necessity so students can see all of the evidence presented for and against a candidate.
The most controversial part of the latest charter is the potential for the Program Board and Marvin Center Governing Board to hold elections separate from the SA. In the past, the JEC oversaw the three organizations, and each organization was permitted to confirm three JEC members.
Under the new charter, the JEC would be composed solely of members appointed by the SA president and confirmed by the Senate. Baxter said the change was vital because the SA holds more elections than PB or MCGB.
The PB and MCGB expressed interest in holding internal elections and taking the vote away from the general student body in discussions last week.
Mike Gargano, assistant vice president for Student and Academic Support Services said he has many concerns about internal elections. He suggested that PB and MCGB nominate two candidates who can then present their ideas and be elected by the general student body.
Integrity and credibility must be maintained, Gargano said. He said he is most concerned that candidates refrain from studying and going to class during the campaign season. He also hopes to see student candidates spending less on campaigning, Gargano said.
As for the JEC, Gargano said he is sure that student leaders in the SA, PB and MCGB can resolve their differences.
If they could find a jury for the O.J. Simpson trial, we should be able to find seven to nine people for this, Gargano said.