The Daily Illini

CSEC elections faces miscommunication, failure to comply with rules

By Megan Jones

The Illinois Student Senate will host a hearing Wednesday at 7 p.m. to vote on removing members of the Campus Student Election Commission after three members of the senate submitted complaints regarding this year’s student election process. 

“There have been many doubts raised about the legitimacy of the trustee election and questions about the bike referendum that need to be answered in a formal setting, and someone needs to be held accountable for how the elections were handled,” Senator Kevin Seymour said, graduate student, in an email. 

Matt Misichko, chairman of the commission, said in a statement that this has been a year of extraordinary circumstances, from schedule delays because of weather to technical difficulties. 

“The members of the CSEC have acted to be flexible and responsive throughout, and have thoughtfully considered every complaint they have received,” Misichko said. 

Shao Guo, Illinois Student Senate historian, said there have been previous instances where election commissions have been purged.

“With an office that actually has a say in how University business is handled … this needs to be treated seriously,” Christopher Boidy said, ISS parliamentarian. “We have a group of folks that are essentially trying to brush us under the rug, and they should not be able to do so.” 

‘Improper application of rules’

Grace Kyung, graduate student, spent the first weekend of March stress-free, after she collected around 2,380 signatures to establish her referendum question on the CSEC spring 2014 referendum. 

However, at 3:44 p.m. on March 3, Kyung received an email from the commission stating that she had not secured enough signatures — something she believes could have easily been avoided if the commission had not waited to notify her until the day before the ballot was sent out. 

“Since I have been in the ISS, the communication between the two organizations has been very poor,” Seymour said. “It always seems like the CSEC has no idea what is going on, even hours before the election takes place.”

The referendum question asked students if they support a $1 student fee each semester dedicated to bicycle-related projects. Kyung wanted to show University administration that students care about bicycling and want to see a change in bicycle infrastructure. 

“We would have certainly gathered enough signatures with advanced notice,” Thane Fowler — president of Bike Face, a registered student organization — said. “We only stopped gathering signatures because we believed we had over 300 extra.” 

According to the Illinois Student Senate’s constitution, the senate can lower a student’s referenda question’s signature threshold for appearance among the referenda to 5 percent with a two-thirds vote. At the senate’s Feb. 12 meeting, the senate believed it passed a resolution in support of lowering the referendum question’s signature threshold from the usual 7 percent of the eligible voting student body — 2,846 signatures — to 5 percent — 2,033. 

Senators mistakenly informed members of the bike fee referendum that they had the senate’s sponsorship, while in actuality they needed an additional vote from a senator to be officially sponsored. But the ISS told Kyung that she had its support and only needed 2,033 signatures. 

“After discovering this, CSEC took it upon themselves to dismiss the referendum and force it off the ballot, even though the ISS wanted to make things right by allowing us to go on the ballot, despite this technicality,” Fowler said. “This, in my opinion, was a power grab that disregarded the democratic process and the voices of thousands of students and at least 100 hours of work from our members.” 

Additionally, Seymour said the commission rejected the fee because of a misinterpretation of the senate’s constitution by the commission. The commission said the resolution was void because referendum questions need to be sponsored by an individual senator for the senate to lower the signature threshold. Because Kyung is not a senator, she does not qualify. In reality, Seymour said this is a moot point, as any resolution to lower a referenda question’s signature threshold must first be sponsored by a senator.

“CSEC claims that because ISS didn’t initiate the referendum, which is not actually possible since resolutions must be sponsored by individual senators, that the threshold for signature collection was not lowered to 5 percent…,” Seymour said. “This all could have been avoided if the CSEC simply took the time to contact the ISS beforehand.” 

In any case, Kyung’s question did not receive a two-thirds vote by the senate, disqualifying it from receiving the 5 percent signature threshold. 

Guo added that a member of the commission should have come to a student senate meeting before the election, as previous commissions have in the past. 

‘Insufficient working with the SORF Board’  

Guo, chairman of the Student Organization Resource Fee Board, submitted a petition after CSEC never submitted a budget to the board. Under the commission’s bylaws, the CSEC should propose a budget and send it to the SORF chair for approval. 

The petition states that the SORF Board believes that the CSEC insufficiently worked with the SORF Board in the elections, specifically in regards to inaccuracies within the election packet and lack of publicity efforts. 

“This year, we’ve had a competitive undergraduate election. … If the qualities of each SORF Board candidate are not given, then you allow the possibility of selecting an unethical person on SORF Board,” Guo said, adding that if he wasn’t involved in the board, he would not have even known elections were taking place. 

The petition against CSEC was passed on March 13 with a vote of 7-0, with two abstentions. Guo received the budget later that night, which listed a total of $2,000 worth of expenses. 

SORF Board allocates $667 of student fee money per year to the CSEC. On its budget, the CSEC said it spent $500 on an advertisement within The Daily Illini and that the rest was used for internal purposes, such as renting rooms. 

According to The Daily Illini’s records, the commission last bought an advertisement in 2012. Misichko confirmed that the commission had not bought an ad.

The budget was not itemized, and Guo said he would not have approved it if it had been given to SORF before the money was spent. 

SORF’s petition also states that the commission has insufficiently worked with the board in regards to communication between the two groups.  

‘Failure to hear formal complaint’

Boidy submitted a complaint to the CSEC regarding upcoming Student Trustee Lucas Frye’s campaign spending. Boidy believes Frye had unreported campaign expenditures, specifically involving his three campaign videos, and violated the registered student organization contribution rules. 

“The student body cannot be simply ignored in cases like that because this sets a whole precedent for future elections,” Boidy said. “This lack of punishment sets a bad example and destroys credibility in the Illinois student elections.” 

Specifically, Boidy wrote that Frye’s videos take place in Assembly Hall and the Alice Campbell Alumni Center Boardroom, which both cost money to rent. If rented, these costs were not listed in his expenditures, unless he used connections through RSOs. 

“I’m involved in a lot of things on campus and it simply came down to asking whether I could use the facilities,” Frye said. “I told them what I was doing and it simply came down to asking.” 

According to the Campus Administration Manual, Section 8-1.3, the private use of University property for political campaign activities is not allowed.

Frye said that the commission informed him of this complaint and gave him the opportunity to respond and outline his expenses. Frye said he spent $120 in total on his campaign to create his own website and to purchase Facebook advertisements. 

He said the commission reviewed his expenses and found that nothing warranted concern. As Campus Student Election Commission’s chairman, Misichko declined to comment. 

Boidy has submitted his complaint to Dean Rhonda Kirts and is awaiting further action. 

Megan can be reached at [email protected] and @MeganAsh_Jones.

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