The MNSU student senate election which was scheduled to take place today has been rescheduled for April 25. Last Friday, all MNSU students were notified via email of this and other significant changes to the election process. The email noted that students interested in running for President, Vice President, Senator, or a spot in a handful of related boards and commissions may file for candidacy any time between now and Monday, April 17. A presidential and vice presidential debate will take place at noon on Wednesday, April 19.
The MSSA Elections Commission declined to comment on the reasoning behind the change when contacted by the Reporter on Sunday. The Commission later produced a letter to the editor which was shared with the Reporter through President Rayani and can be seen below.
President Rayani supports the Elections Commission’s decision.
“After much deliberation and reflection on our election rules and guidelines, the Elections Commission has found that they were in violation of a couple of rules that they had outlined and presented to senate,” he says.
He adds that “the Elections Commission’s way of repairing these mishaps is by extending the deadline and doing all the things they were supposed to do and, in that way, everyone has an equal opportunity and a level playing field.”
Regarding former presidential candidate Aaron Eberhart’s letter to the editor in last Thursday’s edition of the Reporter which implied MSSA election unfairness, President Rayani said that he objects to much of the tone and content of the piece. He especially disagrees with Eberhart’s characterization of residence hall campaigning rules as discriminatory. He says that such rules are not under the jurisdiction of student senate and that he supports the residence halls’ ability to restrict who they allow in. Eberhart wrote that appointments were made late, but Rayani affirms that all but one of the Elections Commission positions were appointed no later than Feb. 15, which he believes was timely. He added that while he cannot speak into issues regarding Eberhart’s personal interactions with MSSA and the Elections Commission, he trusts Dr. Jones and MSSA Advisor John Bulcock, both of whom were mentioned by Eberhart.
Despite his disagreements, Rayani believes that Eberhart raised a valid concern in pointing out two ways that the Elections Commission violated Article III of the MSSA Spring Election Rules. He agrees that the following parts of the rules were not followed: 1) “The Elections Commission shall distribute posters advertising upcoming elections and candidacy filing procedures” and 2) “The Elections Commission shall work with the Office of Student Affairs to distribute an all-student email advertising upcoming elections and candidacy filing procedures.” These are the reasons, he says, that the decision was made to postpone the election. He adds that another reason was that the election rules and guidelines were not updated on the MSSA webpage. Rayani makes clear that he is not at all involved with the Elections Commission decision-making process.
He adds, however, that these issues are by no means unique to this particular election.
“These issues happen every year because no Elections Commission is perfect. There is always going to be a little mishap and when I ran, there were many mishaps, as well. It is a good thing that we are aware of these mishaps and that the Elections Commission has worked to repair them.”
In his letter to the editor, Eberhart noted that these violations especially disadvantaged him and his Accountability Party because neither he nor any members of the party were previously involved in student senate.
When asked whether Eberhart’s letter to the editor caused the Elections Commission’s decision, President Rayani said that he does not know.
Rayani is very strong in affirming that “there’s been no preferences and there’s been no corruption.” He notes that he and Vice President Ruiz “wanted [Eberhart] to have the same opportunities that anyone else has.”
Vice President Maria Ruiz says that “our main priority right now is to amend the mistake that was made in not sending the all-student email and the posters, and to reinforce students that there is no corruption going on in MSSA. The Elections Commission is an independent commission which does not report back to us. MSSA president Faical and I have tried to work with all parties involved and with the different commissions in efforts to have a fair election.”
President Rayani objected to the Reporter’s wording of the title of Aaron’s letter to the editor (“Aaron Eberhart uncovers MSSA election corruption”).
Reporter Editor-in-Chief Matt Eberline stood by the wording, which he says he was deliberate and thought-out.
“The thing about corruption is that it does not always result from malicious intent,” he says. “Those involved with the election process may not have brought this about willingly, it may have simply been a result of negligence by commission members, but the fact that this spring’s election can no longer be considered fair and impartial shows that the election system has been corrupted and is no longer capable of serving this purpose in this year’s general election.”
Eberline argues that the decision was impartial and made clear that it was in no way related to MSSA’s decision to cut the Reporter’s budget for the coming fiscal year.
The Reporter reached out to Eberhart for a comment, but he responded, saying “I just want to hold off until I have all my facts together” and that he plans on commenting next week.
The Reporter notes that Article III, Section 1 of the MSSA Constitution states that “the Spring Elections of the MSSA shall be held on the second (2nd) Tuesday in April for the purpose of electing the President, the Vice President, the Senators, [and positions on related boards, committees, and commissions].” This comes from the MSSA Constitution (ratified April 14, 2014) as provided on the MSSA webpage and is, to the Reporter’s knowledge, the most up-to-date version.
MSSA Speaker Fred de Ruiter resigned from his position as Chair of the Elections Commission two days prior to the Commission’s decision, telling the Reporter that “the Elections Commission is a neutral body and I felt that I could no longer be neutral.” He adds that his decision to resign was in no way related to unfairness in the election process as alleged by Eberhart’s letter to the editor in last Thursday’s edition of the Reporter. He says that he is unaware of the Commission’s decision-making process regarding the election change and that he feels it would not be his place to comment on it. In his interview with the Reporter, de Ruiter announced that he is now entering the MSSA presidential race, challenging AbdulRahmane Abdul-Aziz’s formerly uncontested bid. The Reporter reached out to Abdul-Aziz yesterday but received no response.
The candidate application form and a list of current election rules can be found at www.mnsu.edu/mssa/involved/election.html.