As the chairman of the Joint Elections Committee, I typically do my best to stay out of the spotlight – the JEC is, after all, an organization that everyone loves to hate. But, after reading the staff editorial “Balancing Power” (March 1, p. 4), I felt compelled to write a brief response to give the readers a better idea of how and why we enforce campaign rules and regulations.
First of all, it’s important to note that this year’s campaign rules and regulations have been completely rewritten from scratch, and I am proud to say they are exceptionally clear and concise. At the time of this writing, 39 of the 47 penalties we’ve assessed have been uncontested by the candidates. More candidates than I care to mention have actually apologized for “forgetting to read that rule” when made aware of their violations.
The point is, with even a little bit of effort, it really isn’t that difficult to run a violation-free campaign: If you need proof, look no further than President-elect Jason Lifton, who succeeded in winning a hotly contested election without incurring a single penalty. Although the JEC usually takes the rap when candidates receive penalties, I urge everyone to remember that the rules really aren’t that hard to follow.
The editorial also argues for the importance of considering the spirit of the law, and I could not agree more. This year’s JEC has been diligent in considering the “big picture,” and we have already dismissed a number of complaints due to their inconsequential nature. Contrary to The Hatchet’s claim, candidates are never held responsible for actions over which they had no control, and candidates are never disqualified for running “relatively law-abiding” campaigns.
The spirit of the law certainly holds a very important place in our minds. However, it’s crucial that we never let the spirit of the law supersede the letter of the law, or else it becomes little more than a tool to justify ignoring the rules. If we allowed that to happen, then I suspect The Hatchet’s next editorial would be even less flattering.
Jacob Chervinsky, a senior majoring in psychology and criminal justice, is the chairman of the Joint Elections Committee.