As the group that regulates the Student Association elections each spring, the Joint Elections Committee plays a critical role in campus election transparency.
But senior Phil Gardner, the chair of the JEC, is looking to alter the role of the election watchdogs. Rather than stringently investigating minor election rule violations, Gardner is scaling back the committee’s responsibility from a police force’s to a referee’s. Instead of sending out investigators to catch nitpicky violations, the JEC will now rely on the public to report alleged violations for the committee to investigate. The committee members will instead focus on improving student participation in the elections, as only about 20 percent of the student body actually votes.
The Joint Elections Committee has been criticized in the past for applying the charter rules to an extreme, and Gardner is right to seek reform on that issue.
But a move away from actively seeking out election violations is a potentially dangerous decision that could negatively affect the campaigning process. While it is important to rely on the community to police itself, there must be a strong presence from the JEC to maintain a fair and steady electoral process.
We do not trust that each candidate will adhere to election rules without the presence of the JEC.
It seems too idealistic that most minor electoral infractions will be brought to the committee’s attention, so the JEC must continue to take the lead in demanding fair play from candidates.
While the committee will still enforce egregious violations, allowing minor violations to occur and fester will undoubtedly damage the integrity and credibility of the campaigning and electoral process.
There is no doubt that in the past the JEC has been too stringent in enforcing some of its electoral rules. But an appropriate balance must be maintained between actively upholding the committee charter while not becoming overbearing at the same time.