On Monday, May 4, a written formal complaint was handed to Tom Pritchard, Vice President of Student Services, accusing some members and affiliates of the candidate team Students Foremost of breaking campaign rules during the 2009 ASG elections. The document [signers names withheld to protect witnesses] claims that on May 1, some, but not all, members of the group used laptops and food incentives to solicit votes, in turn, violating election by-law 126.96.36.199.2.
This by-law stipulates that, “A candidate shall not attempt to coerce or petition a student who is actively submitting a ballot.”
During orientation, all candidates involved in the election were reportedly given a complete copy of the by-laws that constitute an ethical guide to campaigning. One of the accused [name withheld pending investigation] said that they were not given examples of how they could use products during their campaign. Amanda Alva, current ASG President, believes that the copy of the by-laws act as a clear enough manual to use as a reference.
Two of the three accused members of the party [names withheld pending investigation] said they believe that any alleged violation of by-laws on their part result from misunderstandings, saying that a front desk assistant in the student program’s office confirmed when asked that the use of laptops for voting was a legal approach to a campaign.
Alva, who “saw three students who were running for various positions with brownies and a laptop,” said that it is “the front desk’s responsibility to not answer questions they don’t clearly know the answer to, [and to] direct them to their source.”
Interpretation of by-laws aside, it is the responsibility of the Interim Judicial Board to monitor the progress of the campaigning and election process. This board is made up of three members: Burke Colquhoun, Vicki Ma and Dominick Lee.
Colquhoun said that the board has been “watching the campaigns as closely as [they] can,” and that the large number of people running for ASG positions can make observing campaigns hard.
The observation of campaigns has become even harder since candidate teams have formed and individuals and groups have been utilizing non-candidate campaign management, a formation new to this year’s ASG election.
The use of campaign management is something that has called to question the ethical structure of Students Foremost’s campaign, even prior to the recent allegations.
There are currently no by-laws that state a campaign manager promoting an individual or group is officially associated with them. Therefore, campaign managers can violate by-laws and their actions will not be regarded as an official action of the group or individual they represent, only of themselves as unofficial affiliates.
Andres A. Munt, independently running for Clubs and Programs Representative, said that the person formerly referred referred to as the campaign manager of Students Foremost [name withheld pending investigation] was, “going up to people with a laptop and getting them to vote,” an act that may be regarded as unethical, but could potentially have no repercussions on the group.
The person formerly referred to as the group’s campaign manager also allegedly, “gave people food to vote and had laptops in the cafeteria,” said a student [name withheld to protect witness].
This is something that Munt said bastardizes the whole election.
Members of the accused party have told reporters that it has been other candidates and groups that have taken unethical actions.
One member accused other candidates outside their group running of using laptops.
Matt Nolan, referred to as campaign manager for independent Joshua Scott for Emerging Tech and Entrepreneurial Representative, said that a laptop would be “definitely an aid to a campaign.”
David Poulton, a student at BC, added that he had seen numerous candidates, unsure of their group affiliation, using laptops to solicit votes.
The former campaign manager of Students Foremost accused Alva of allegedly influencing votes, saying that she wore a badge promoting the group Voice of Change within the vicinity of a voting booth.
“I’ve never seen such backstabbing and corruption,” said the former campaign manager.
The construction of Students Foremost as a group has also been allegedly construed as unethical by witnesses, specifically for their recruiting process.
An anonymous student [name withheld to protect witness] said that he was approached by the former campaign manager of Students Foremost and asked about his race and sexual orientation, in an attempt to recruit the student.
A member of the party, however, said that the former campaign manager of Students Foremost “was trying to recruit a diverse group of people … because this may help in gathering ideas under different cultural backgrounds.”
While members of the accused party have acknowledged the use of a laptop, others were allegedly unaware.
One member of the group [name withheld pending investigation] had no recollection or knowledge that a laptop was used and said “that’s a very big no-no … I know the rules,” while another member said that they “asked a teammate if [they] could use a laptop to get people to vote and [they] said yes.” The latter went on to ask reporters, “Would it be possible to publish [this article] after the election?”
ASG election candidates, members of the accused party, and the Interim Judicial Board are reportedly unclear about what constitutes the violation of by-law 188.8.131.52.2.
Colquhoun said that the issue is “definitely in the realm of a grey area,” specifically in relation to the role of a campaign manager.
The grey area is something that Tom Pritchard, VP of Student Services, wants to avoid.
He said “there’s the spirit of the by-laws and the black and white of the by-laws,” and that there are “always ways to skew reality.”
If the allegations against the accused candidates and affiliates are determined to be valid, it will be up to the Associated Students of Bellevue College Judicial Board and the Elections Review Committee to decide whether the by-laws have been violated.
If the accusations do go to these higher bodies, the situation will be taken far more seriously than one accused candidate who said, “We are not running for president or anything.”
Alva tries to put the extremity of the situation into perspective.
“Not only do we manage student resources that potentially amount to millions of dollars,” she said.
“But we also advocate with legislatures that take us very seriously.”