SA Supreme Court: SA should enact regulations for online voting

By Northern Star staff

The Student Association Supreme Court, in its opinion, “highly encourages” the SA to enact regulations concerning electronic voting for elections.

The court released its opinions Tuesday on the hearings surrounding the contentious 2015 SA executive election.

The Voice of Change ticket was disqualified March 26 after being sanctioned for excessive littering, failure to get handbills approved by the election commissioner and taping a flier to a wall near a DuSable Hall polling station, not a bulletin board.

The Supreme Court declared the sanctions unfounded and lifted the disqualification at a March 31 hearing.

Robert Kreml, vice presidential candidate on the Standing for Every Student ticket, petitioned the Board of Elections to disqualify Voice of Change on grounds of voter intimidation, but the court dismissed the charge at a separate March 31 hearing. The Voice of Change ticket was declared the winner of the election April 1 after receiving a majority of the student vote.

Standing for Every Student v. Board of Elections

With a unanimous vote, the Supreme Court ruled the Board of Elections was correct in not sanctioning the Voice of Change ticket for voter intimidation.

In the opinion of the court, Justice Helen Mellas said there were no witnesses that testified and “explicitly expressed” they were intimidated by the Voice of Change ticket. Voice of Change campaigners set up unofficial polling stations with laptops in the Stevenson, New and Neptune residence halls. In the petition, Kreml said Voice of Change campaign members hovered over the shoulders of voters and intimidated them into voting for the Voice of Change ticket.

The Supreme Court wrote it decided in favor of the Board of Elections due to the fact there were no applicable sanctions to online voting, which was first used in this election.

Furthermore, the court said the SA could use the case as a “learning experience to ensure there are rules and regulations that cover electronic voting, as well.”

Voice of Change v. Board of Elections and Election Commissioner

In a 4-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled the Board of Elections was wrong to charge Voice of Change with excessive littering. Nathan Lupstein, who has since been elected president on the Voice of Change ticket, said there were less than 10 handbills left in Neptune Central after March 25. The Voice of Change ticket was sanctioned March 25 for excessive littering after a warning by the Board of Elections on March 24.

In the opinion of the court, Chief Justice Brian Burkhardt said the Board of Elections and election commissioner’s photograph of handbills on the tables of the Trident in Neptune Central was not sufficient evidence for littering as the photo was not timestamped and was acquired from the Standing for Every Student Ticket. Burkhardt said the photographs did not show excessive littering and Lupstein showed effort in cleaning the area with campaign volunteers.

With the closest vote of the hearing, the Supreme Court ruled 3-2 in declaring the Board of Elections handbill-related sanction on Voice of Change unfounded.

The Voice of Change distributed handbills without approval from SA Elections Commissioner David White, violating regulations. The ticket immediately ceased campaigning March 24, the first day of the election, and White approved the handbills at noon.

The Board of Elections imposed a sanction on the ticket March 25 after the 8 p.m. deadline for the Voice of Change to appeal any sanction to the board, said Rachel Gorsuch, Board of Elections member.

In the opinion, Justice James Zanayed said the Board of Elections was not reasonable in overruling the election commissioner with the sanction, and the sanction itself was not reasonable because it was distributed at a time when Voice of Change could no longer appeal to the board.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court decided the Board of Elections inappropriately sanctioned Voice of Change for improper use of adhesive. Student Involvement and Leadership Development poster policy states approved posters may only be placed on bulletin boards in university buildings.

With the opinion of the court, Justice Jawuan Sutton said there was no evidence to suggest the poster was hung by the Voice of Change ticket or someone else. Sutton said the Board of Elections also failed to warn the Voice of Change ticket of the poster and did not give them a chance to speak in front of the board before being sanctioned.

Justice Chloe Pooler did not author an opinion on the hearings.