Editorial: Messing with Democracy: Rules in ASUC Campaigns



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Here we go again. In the first campaign scandal of this year's ASUC election, possible censures could be foretelling another chaotic, legislative mess.

In races in which platforms play second-seat to slogans and substance is outshined by image, ASUC campaigns are all about publicity. And in pursuit of publicity, candidates and their parties need to abide by rules governing conduct. No one could expect a fair election otherwise.

But in the rules lies the rub. If the rules are too strict, the election could become mired in legal proceedings. If the rules are not strict enough, candidates and parties would run roughshod in a free-for-all.

The new ASUC attorney general, Mario DeBernardo, thinks he has the solution: loosely abide by strict rules.

"I'm not going to be a strict constructionist," DeBernardo told the ASUC senate in his first speech since taking office a scarce one and a half months before the elections. "I don't want to be someone who messes with democracy."

But will DeBernardo's hands-off approach create a smoother election? Certainly not.

The rules are all there for a reason. The recently passed Quigley-Heilig election laws cover the entire election process, trying to secure every detail in an attempt to avoid a fiasco like last year's. The bylaws cover everything from the obvious, such as no interfering with vote counting, to the most minute, like governing some font sizes on campaign literature. Some are essential, like barring the use of ASUC authority, facilities and resources in campaigning.

But even as the laws tighten guidelines, they leave room for interpretation and eventual quagmire unless DeBernardo handles things right.

DeBernardo will release a decision this morning on whether or not to censure a political party that allegedly placed campaign posters over ASUC-sponsored student group promotions. This is not-so-explicitly outlawed by the bylaws, which require the offense to be systematic, repetitive and willful.

Once DeBernardo is done investigating, he'll file his charges and the case will go to the Judicial Council. He says he may surpass the usual warning and ask for immediate censures.

While not exactly avoiding strict contructionism, he's on the right path. Some of the rules are unnecessary (font sizes), but if they're the rules, they need to be enforced.

In a campaign where the sole concern seems to be following the rules, DeBernardo is charged with the difficult task of prosecuting offenders of a collection of strict, obscure, interpretable, pedantic bylaws while avoiding a repeat of last year. Good luck, Mario.

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