DSG orders repeat of '05 election

The Duke Student Government judiciary board has ordered a new presidential election for the Class of 2005 after ruling that a previously eliminated candidate should have been censured instead of disqualified.

The DSG Election Commission last week found Rachel Decker, a sophomore running for class president, in violation of both the DSG election bylaws and the Office of Information Technology's group e-mail policy when her campaign sent an e-mail to 968 members of the sophomore class advertising her candidacy and providing a link to her campaign website. Senior Will Fagan, DSG attorney general, convened the election commission, which declared her candidacy null and void April 15, two days before the election was held.

Late Monday night, the judiciary ruled with the original Election Commission that Decker had indeed violated election bylaws, but insisted that the correct punitive action was censure, not disqualification. The judiciary then set a new election for the office to be held Friday, April 25 - featuring both Decker and sophomore Avery Capone on the online ballot.

As part of Decker's censure, the judiciary ordered that DSG send every member of the sophomore class an e-mail prior to the new class election explaining her violation.

The judiciary found that because e-mails are different from flyers, they do not necessarily have to be approved by DSG's election commission. They did find that although Decker violated the group e-mail policy, her actions did not give her a competitive advantage over Capone, the only other candidate in the race, because she could have achieved the same effect by sending out an e-mail in blocks of 100 students.

Fagan, whose term as attorney general ended Monday night when new Attorney General David Kahn was inaugurated, said the judiciary's ruling was a disgrace because its solution disregarded the bylaws.

"Here's what it means - bylaws don't matter," he said. "If you're a candidate and you don't read the bylaws, don't worry about it. If you commit a violation and the attorney general or the election commission finds you guilty of it, don't worry about it. If they punish you, don't worry about it, because the judiciary will get you off."

Fagan added that when he heard the case last week, the only options available to him per DSG bylaws were to disqualify Decker or do nothing.

Senior Kate O'Neill, DSG chief justice, said the judiciary's solution was the best one.

"We felt that the punishment did not suit her violation," she said. "There's an option for us to establish [another possible punishment] that the election commission does not have. The DSG constitution provides the judiciary that."

Both candidates - whom the judiciary ruled cannot campaign, by flyer or otherwise, in the days before Friday's revote - said they were optimistic about their chances.

"As far as the ruling goes, I was a little disappointed," said Capone, who was originally elected class president last Thursday. "I feel that it undermines future elections... in its disregard for the bylaws."

Decker, on the other hand, said the decision was just.

"I think reopening the election was necessary to restore students' belief in the system and for DSG to regain some semblance of authority," she said.

Although judicial decisions are required to be heard and decided within 48 hours of an appeal - which Decker filed April 16 - the judiciary decided to postpone the hearing until April 21 because of religious observance. The judiciary's brief also suggested DSG clarify its bylaws to make sanctions clearer in the future.

Fagan suggested that the five-day gap could invalidate the judiciary's ruling.

"The judiciary's performance on this was horrible, absolutely horrible in every respect," he said.


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