Confusion of roles spurs SG election board delays

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The Election Supervisory Board is supposed to be formed by the third week of October, according to the Student Government constitution and election code, but the committee that will appoint the board missed the deadline and is still seeking applicants to fill the board’s nine positions.

The board oversees the March general election, in which students elect members of Student Government, the Graduate Student Assembly, the Texas Union Board, the Co-op Board of Directors and Texas Student Media. Board members must learn the election code and establish regulations, such as penalties for code violations, before campaigning begins in mid-February. The first round of applications did not go out until Oct. 28 and were not widely distributed before the Nov. 5 due date. The committee has only received five applications.

SG President Scott Parks said part of the reason applications went out so late is no one seems to be sure who is responsible for distributing them. Members of the appointing committee are supposed to remain neutral in all things related to the 2011 election, and no one took the lead on forming the new board, he said. The committee now hopes to have the complete board in place before winter break.

“Everyone is committed to doing a better job advertising this time around,” Parks said. “It’s important that the board starts getting to work and deciding some ground rules for the next election as soon as possible.”

Each of the five groups involved in the election have one representative on the committee that selects the board members. Delays in receiving names for the appointing committee from the five entities led to the delay in releasing applications the first time, said Melinda Sutton, deputy to the dean of students.

Last year, the board wasn’t in place until a few days before campaigning officially started because SG had only passed its new election code the previous fall. The delay caused numerous problems, including a charge of code violation levied against the Parks campaign in November and December before the board existed.

Board members must take time to understand the code and to prepare for many possible violations, said Alex Ferraro, who was one of the lead authors of the new election code and the campaign manager for the Minator Azemi campaign, Parks’ main opposition in the election.

“A downside last year is that the board didn’t seem to have a full understanding of the election code,” he said. “There were sections they ended up violating themselves.”

Charles Maddox, who chaired the 2010 board, said he doesn’t foresee serious complications for the new board, especially if it is in place by the end of the semester, because it will have the precedent and guidance of the previous board. The only serious problem that could result from the delayed board is a lack of oversight should candidates begin campaigning or otherwise violating the election code before the board is final.