Other stories filed under Editorial
Other stories filed under Opinions
March 12, 2016
The DASB Senate’s election complaints process and appeals lack both fairness and due process. The senate must follow its own rules and provide a just system for addressing election complaints and punishments.
The recent election code violation hearings should never have taken place because the groups alleging wrongdoing filed the complaint forms after the deadline.
Witnesses said they filed their complaints late because they did not realize the elections code had been violated until they talked with their friends on the Senate.
This excuse does not make the late filing acceptable. The senate allowed their biases to blind them to inconsistencies in the witness’ stories and the lack of due process.
Senators have no place issuing heavy-handed punishments for weakly supported accusations if they themselves cannot be bothered to follow their own laws or take steps to ensure a fair trial.
The DASB Senate hearings about the election code infractions were a witch hunt, not an unbiased review of the facts.
Three candidates allegedly violated the same election infraction, using their cellphone while campaigning, but while one of them received community service, two were disqualified from the election.
The disparity in the punishment occurred because one candidate was tried by the Elections Committee, which assigned community service, while two went in front of the DASB Senate and received disqualification.
Disqualifying a candidate from the election is the most drastic punishment a candidate can receive, so it is irresponsible to assign disqualification if there is doubt about the severity of the violation. The Elections Committee’s lighter sentence shows that there was doubt about how severe a violation it was.
Throughout the senate meeting, senators showed they were incapable of running a fair election violations review.
Candidates received notice of the hearing only hours before the start of the meetings and were not informed why they had to attend. The accusations blindsided them.
This left the candidates without time or ability to organize a defense against the accusations.
During the senate meeting, senator Vincent Gomez told one of the accused candidates that denying the allegations is not an acceptable defense, and he would have to prove his innocence.
Instead of assuming innocence and requiring the accusers to prove the candidates guilty of violations, the senate assumed the candidates were guilty and required them to prove their innocence, an almost impossible task and not in keeping with the judicial process of any civilized society.
The senate also questioned how one candidate received as many votes as he did unless he had cheated. This accusation was nothing more than speculation and had no basis in fact.
If senators want to publicly question the number of votes a candidate received, they need to produce evidence showing the vote total is suspect. They didn’t, and as a result, they prejudiced the process against the candidate.
Casting further doubt on the testimony, the witnesses were clearly friends of the senators who voted to disqualify the candidates.
To disqualify a candidate, the standard for evidence must be set much higher than a he said/ she said argument between the candidate and senators’ friends, or unwarranted guesswork.