By Simon Isham–
Monday, Feb. 18 was the U.S. federal holiday President’s Day, but the University of Louisville did not, at time of press, have a clear winner in the Student Government Association presidential election.
Students who went into a class at 9 a.m. on Feb. 6 emerged just one hour later in the midst of a lively campaign trail. Immediately, they found clusters of posters which displayed the smiling faces of SGA “top four” and Senate candidates tacked to bulletin boards across campus. When they walked outside, the faces followed in the forms of yard signs and vinyl banner ads. Venturing closer to the Student Activities Center may have even brought them face-to-face with these by-now-familiar faces, as some candidates also chose to campaign for votes in person.
It turns out that some of these posters, signs, and meet-and-greets may have been erroneous.
The SGA subscribes to a set of guidelines concerning what is fair and unfair campaigning. These rules, which are revised every year, cover the scope of the process—from balloting to official election.
The members of CardForce, Cardinal Revolution and iLeadLou, bodies referred to, in SGA parlance, as “slates,” have pressed charges against one another for what they say have been infractions of these rules. Similar suits were also brought before the court during the 2011 and 2012 SGA elections.
When asked why the issue has been recurring, current SGA president Justin Brandt said, “To me it’s frustrating. It’s part of the reason people have a bad taste (in their mouths) about SGA. What happens is these people care so much and really want to give the election a good effort. Certain personalities on either team—even if it’s a petty violation—they see that as an opportunity to win. I hope that in this pre-trial effort, people really try to take out the stupid stuff.”
In each case, one student representative is selected to serve as an arbiter and legal counsel to a slate. This person is known as the petitioner, and may press charges against an entire slate or any individual on a slate. The petitioner’s opposition is known as the respondent.
Seven cases were brought before the court during this election cycle, but two claims within the cases between Cardinal Revolution and Card Force were settled before the trial and dropped.
The current docket was divulged at a pre-trial on Sunday, Feb. 17. Associate justice Arsh Haque was in attendance at this meeting, as was chief justice Brandon McReynolds, who officiated. A brief summary of the docket is below.
1. Mathis (iLeadLou) v. CardForce. Mathis claims that CardForce placed campaign posters in areas forbidden by a contract signed by Carrie Mattingly of CardForce.
2. Mathis (iLeadLou) v. CardForce. Mathis claims that an email promoting the CardForce slate was distributed via a non-voluntary listserv by Alyssa Mattingly.
3. Shepherd (CardForce) v. iLeadLou. Shepherd claims that iLeadLou candidate Connor Loew campaigned door-to-door in multiple residence halls, which is prohibited.
4. Morley (Cardinal Revolution) v. CardForce. Morley claims that an email forwarded from Carrie Mattingly was distributed via the School of Nursing’s involuntary listserv. Morely also claims that a CardForce flyer was posted on an unapproved bulletin board.
5. Floyd (CardForce) v. Cardinal Revolution. Floyd claims that a sign erected by the Cardinal Revolution slate was unsanctioned and thus violated state law.
6. Floyd (CardForce) v. Cardinal Revolution. Floyd claims that Cardinal Revolution distributed an unsanctioned reproduction of the University of Louisville Cardinal bird head thousands of times in various formats, thus violating federal law.
7. Floyd (CardForce) v. Cardinal Revolution. Floyd claims that there are several financial discrepancies in Cardinal Revolution’s Slate Value Report.
In the event that the associate justices are unable to agree on an opinion on these cases by simple majority, McReynolds will break the tie. If they do agree, McReynolds remains an non-voting member of the court. However, during the pre-trial, he expressed his sincere doubt that he will need to exercise this power.
“This court will not have a tie. We normally rule unanimously,” he said. If a slate is found guilty of an infraction of the rules, the number of votes that the court deems a sufficient penalty will be subtracted from the total number of votes received for that slate.According to McReynolds, the voter turnout was “around 2700” during this election, a figure which he described as “OK.” The University of Louisville’s enrollment, according to the most recent full headcount, is 22,249
Photo by Andrew Nathan/The Louisville Cardinal