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Record Swattie Turnout Helps Democrats Win Local Elections

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On Nov. 7, Democrats came out victorious as Brian Zidek and Kevin Madden won two seats on the Delaware County Council. This was the first time in over 30 years that Democrats have secured seats on the Council, which has historically been Republican dominated. Many community members were involved in helping campaign for the Democrat candidates as signs that read “Zidek Madden Vote Nov 7th: Bring Sanity Back” were dispersed throughout the County. The Swarthmore College Democrats parallelled these efforts by campaigning on campus to students; their efforts were rewarded when Swarthmore College student voter turnout was the highest ever for a local election.

Taylor Morgan ’19, president of Swat Dems, was approached by the County Democrats and candidates after their win and thanked for the student turnout.

“I heard from the people at the polling place, and also at a victory party at the Inn later that night, from the County Democrats and the candidates, that this year was the most significant turnout of Swarthmore students for local elections. All the candidates came up to me at the victory party that night and were thrilled at the engagement and involvement of Swarthmore students canvassing, voting, and in other ways supporting their candidacy,” said Morgan.

Swat Dems’ efforts started way before election day and extended past the college campus. According to Morgan, the organization’s strategy was to provide information about the election, both about the campaigns of the different candidates, and on the logistics of the voting process, in order to actually help students to go out and vote on Nov. 7.

Before the election, Swat Dems worked to enable students not only to vote, but also be involved in the campaigning process.

“I brought in two canvassing trainers to campus and hosted about 19 students who got trained to do paid canvassing. Secondly, we had a ‘Get Out the Vote’ operation which consisted of phone banking; canvassing around campus; dorm storming, which consisted of putting voter day information under the doors; tabling in Sharples to sign people up to drive shuttles; and to volunteer for campaigns,” said Morgan.

On the day of the election, Swat Dems were joined by the Sunrise Group and the Swarthmore Conservative Society to coordinate efforts to get people out to vote. President of Swat Conservatives Gilbert Guerra ’19 said that his group abstained from endorsing specific candidates but still believed it was important to get out and vote.

We joined in the Get Out the Vote effort by advertising it on our social media accounts and by tabling on the day of the election,” said Guerra.

Swat Dems also tried to incentivize students to go vote through food trucks.

“I researched two Black-owned businesses in the area, and I found two food trucks with the help of Andy Rosen, who is the chair of Swarthmore’s Farmer’s Market called Plum Pit Bistro and Catering, and The Sweetest Rose Cupcake Company. So we incentivized students to go vote through food catering. We encouraged students to get on the volunteer shuttles behind the food trucks before or after they were getting their food. And I think this really channeled a lot of students to get in the car and go down the street to vote,” said Morgan.

Morgan was also able to get community members to volunteer as drivers through connections from previous local campaign work.

“I was able to secure 17 local drivers who functioned as volunteer shuttles throughout the day, who used their personal time and vehicles to just drive Swarthmore students back and forth from the polling places,” said Morgan.

Morgan was hesitant to call the Democrats gaining seats a victory but is still optimistic about the future.

“I’m hesitant to call it a win because that implies that the challenge leading up to Tuesday is over, but on the contrary it has just begun. Delaware County, the college, and the community members have been facing complete obstruction and this is due to the Republican Machine. But now, we actually have people who recognize a lot of community needs and crises that are happening locally, that are at the table, and they can at least impart change that has for so long been obstructed. So to me, the ‘win’ means that there is a more likely chance that people will be able to access these changes, not necessarily that these changes will come,” said Morgan.

Morgan described the ‘Republican machine’ as a product of gerrymandering, which is the manipulation of district boundaries to provide advantage to one political party.

“Our district is the most gerrymandered district in the country. This is largely due to the regime of Republican machine in Delaware county. In college courses, Delaware County is held up as an example of what gerrymandering is and the dangers of it. And so the people that were elected, named Brian Zidek and Kevin Madden, have come out publicly against gerrymandering and have actually supported legislation that works at dismantling it. Also, Delaware County has the only for-profit prison in the state of Pennsylvania, and this is due to [Republican backing over the years],” said Morgan.

Peter Foggo ’21, a Democrat, decided to partake in local politics because of this Republican machine that Morgan described.

“I decided to participate in the local elections mainly because Delaware County has historically been controlled by Republican officials, but after the outrage following the most recent presidential election, I think that a lot of people in Delaware County realized that change was not only needed, but a realistic goal,” said Foggo.

Yasmeen Namazie ’19 echoed the importance of local politics bringing change to greater political platforms.

“I went out and voted because I understand the significance of local elections and their power in informing federal policy outcomes. After the Trump election, the Republican stronghold in the Senate and House has created a shortage in Democratic influence. As a Democrat, I want Democrats in local leadership to regain the House in 2018 and reverse the draconian policies implemented by the Trump administration: reinstate DACA, fund Planned Parenthood, repeal the travel ban, etc,” said Namazie.

Morgan hopes that this recent success will motivate students to get more involved in future democratic processes.

“To the group as a whole, I think that precisely because there was such a clear link between student engagement and victory, maybe students will be more likely to be involved in the future. And maybe, exactly this will kind of change the way students see the significance and effect of local politics,” said Morgan.

Washington DC’s long history of disenfranchisement needs to end

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Washington, D.C. should be a state. Period.

Taxation without representation has a long history in America dating back to our nation’s inception. After all, it was King George III’s refusal to grant the colonists representatives in Britain’s Parliament that sparked iconic events such as the Boston Tea Party and our Revolutionary War.

Although citizens of the nation’s capital are not subject to such monarchical rule, certain aspects of our story, which I should preface with the confession that I grew up in the district, reveal inextricable parallelism with the aforementioned bit of history.

Washington’s lack of Congressional representation stems directly from the fact that we are not a state. In the House, we possess but a single non-voting delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has fought tirelessly for the civil rights of marginalized people throughout her career. She currently serves on two Congressional committees, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and uses her position to promote enfranchisement for the district.

A direct consequence of this lack of representation also manifests itself in the Presidential elections. Our votes count less than voters in states because congressmen and congresswomen serve as delegates. Seeing as we have only one, our general election vote counts for disproportionately less than that of someone residing in a state.

Many see the district as a constituent of elites and government employees who do not need a vote because they influence policy on a daily basis. This is a complete misconception. Contrary to popular belief, the district possesses a large portion of regular American citizens who do everyday American jobs. The only difference between an elementary school teacher in Washington and one living just minutes away in Maryland or Virginia is that the latter two have a voice in selecting the composition of our Congress.

Another common misconception regarding backlash to the district’s attempts at statehood includes the idea that Washingtonians have more influence over the executive and legislative branches of government because they are geographically closer to the people calling the shots. In reality, most federal officials spend the majority of their time on their own constituents or national and international affairs. The district’s issues usually get overlooked, proving that proximity to power does not augment actual influence.

Others still argue that granting the district statehood would be illogical due to the tradition of the 50 states. “What would we do with our flag?” skeptics speculate. During the westward expansion of our nation, the flag’s formation was constantly in flux and only stopped changing on July 4, 1960 to include Hawaii’s star. A flag with 51 stars would look just as good as one with 50.

Logically, Congressional republicans do not want another blue state and thus will continue to refuse to pass a statehood bill for the district. In the last Presidential election, 90.9 percent of voters in the district went for Clinton. Were the district a red region, would Congressional Democrats make the same call? According to the Constitution, political belief is not indicated as a protected class. Regardless, the enfranchisement of American citizens should not be a partisan issue. The argument for the district’s statehood is one overflowing with positive statements: its citizens pay full federal taxes, they pay higher per capita taxes than Americans in any of the 50 states, yet they are American citizens who do not possess Congressional representation.

The best traditions are built to adapt. As it was written in 1787, the Constitution was formed during a time when only white, landowning men were able to vote. Over time, the Constitution has adapted to incorporate more of its citizens, evidenced by the amendments; the electorate has expanded and must continue to do so.

The cyclical nature of historical mistakes is a deadly path this country has followed regarding a lot of different issues, and the fundamental fear of change has kept and continues to keep many from voting.

In June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, permitting nine predominantly Southern states to determine their own election laws. In her dissent to the Supreme Court decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg claimed the law to be essential in preventing barriers to voting such as racial gerrymandering and the requirement of at-large voting in areas with higher populations of Black people. Some argue that the effects of this Supreme Court decision were seen in the last election.

America was founded on “a city on a hill” promise of government by the people and for the people. However, for the nearly 700,000 American citizens residing inside the district’s nearly 70 square mile radius, that is not the case.

Organizations such as DCVote have been fighting tirelessly for years with no tangible progress to date. Due to the current composition of Congress, it doesn’t look like much will happen any time soon. Maybe we should start dumping tea into the Potomac River. At the very least, it will send a message.

To learn more about DC statehood, visit dcvote.org

On-campus groups set out to engage young voters

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The upcoming presidential election has spurred student political involvement and discussion on campus. For many students, this year marks the first time they will vote.

Swatties for Hillary is an on-campus group that was founded by Nate Urban ’18 last semester and currently has Emily Uhlmann ’19 as its president.  The group is dedicated to volunteering for the Hillary campaign and has actively set out to register voters. The group has had student volunteers stationed at Sharples during lunch and dinner for the last couple of weeks, according to Urban.

Urban became determined to increase student involvement in the presidential election after the college’s low voter turnout in the 2012 election. 76.4 percent of students at Swarthmore in 2012 were registered to vote, and only 46.7 percent of those students voted.

Izzy McClean ’20 was one of the students who registered to vote at Sharples.

“I wasn’t gonna vote before […] but Pennsylvania’s a swing state. I don’t get why you wouldn’t care. It is going to affect you,” said McClean.

“The involvement this early is awesome,” noted Urban. “We had a meeting [Monday] night at like, 10 p.m., and probably 40 or some odd people were there. At the activities fair, 40 percent of the freshman class signed up.”

Swatties for Hillary is campaigning up until the election through weekly phone banks, daily voter registrations, and canvassing door to door. The group will also host a study break in Mephistos lounge on Oct. 2nd.

Patrick Houston ’17 found a different way to get involved in the election. On Sept. 13th, he introduced President Obama at a Hillary for America campaign rally in Philadelphia.

Urban connected Houston to the opportunity after he was contacted by the Clinton campaign, which was looking for a student with a strong voice, who had also been impacted by health care reform.

“I felt like I had the opportunity to pay some tribute to [Obama],” said Houston.

More than 200 Swarthmore students attended the event after Urban spoke to the Lang Center and arranged for them to pay for SEPTA tickets into the city.

Executive Director of the Lang Center Benjamin Berger explained that the Center is working to increase student involvement in the election, including paying for transportation to a host of political events.

“I’ve seen high levels of student interest much higher than during the 2012 election but perhaps not quite so high as 2008’s peak,” he said.

Over 300 students gathered at LPAC on Monday to watch the presidential debate, an event for which the Lang Center provided pizza and drinks.

“Students’ excitement and engagement were through the roof pretty impressive for a Monday night,” noted Berger. He went on to discuss the Lang Center’s support of student political initiatives.

“We sponsor many student groups involved with nonpartisan voter registration efforts, including the Swarthmore Political Engagement Project (SPEP), co-founded last year by Jacob Dumree ’19 and Simran Singh ’19. I worry about our country’s future, but our students’ deep engagement and ethical concern gives me hope.”

Department Chair of Political Science Keith Reeves ’88 echoed the sentiment. “My general impressions, anecdotal as they are, [is] that students are very much as involved, committed, and passionate [as] I was certainly here as a student, equally as passionate, if not a tad bit more so, than my Kennedy School and my Middlebury students.”

Reeves currently teaches American Politics, a class that is usually capped at 25 students but has 31 students enrolled this semester.

“It’s election time, so we’re not surprised by higher enrollments,” he said. “Students are actively working for both campaigns. Certainly, they are paying attention and are nervously anticipating Nov. 8th.”

For some international students on campus, Nov. 8th will not be a special day.

“Because I’m from Britain [and] Donald Trump has all these ties to Britain, it kind of does affect me,” said Marianne Lotter-Jones ’19. “But I know there’s nothing I can do about it. So I just let it be.”

Some Swatties, like Benedict Rogando ’20, have found that the election is not one of their focuses.

“I don’t even care about that stuff, man. I have enough to worry about. I have a couple of midterms.”

In an election where youth votes are critical and excitement is low, campus organizational groups have the opportunity to make a sizeable impact.

 

One Referendum Passes, Five Fail

in Around Campus/News by

After one of the college’s most heated debates, students voted down all but one of the referendum propositions that sought to alter the shape of Greek life on campus. With roughly 80 percent of the student population casting a ballot, students rejected proposals to disaffiliate Greek organizations from their national chapters, eliminate, reduce or make fraternity houses into substance-free spaces, or ban Greek life altogether.

Supporters of Greek life were, overall, pleased with the outcome of the referendum. “I’d say that as a group, Phi Psi is satisfied,” said Zachary Schaffer ’14, the president of Phi Psi.

Rory McTear ’13, the president of Delta Upsilon (DU), expressed the same sentiment. “We’re definitely satisfied by the results,” he said.

The end of the referendum marks an important moment in the dialogue and, for now, an end to the campaign to ban fraternities that began on February 14 when several students posted a petition to have a referendum on the existence of Greek life. “I don’t see the sense in pushing for something the community doesn’t want,” said Joyce Wu ’15, one of the students who started the petition.

Wu, however, added that the percentages of votes many of the proposals received meant that, regardless of failure, there were still concerns that must be addressed. “Two of them had 36 percent of people saying ‘yes,’” said Wu. “With those numbers, it gives us a way to move forward in taking action.”

Furthermore, not all of the referendum was voted down. By a 20-percent margin, students voted in favor of having Greek organizations admit students of all genders. That proposition will now be forwarded to the Deans’ Office, college president and Board of Managers, who will have the final say on its implementation.

Associate Dean of Student Life Myrt Westphal said that the administration was not yet entirely sure what its response to the passing proposition would be. But male students shouldn’t plan on rushing Kappa Alpha Theta too soon.

“I would say not to expect any immediate changes in policy,” said Westphal, who said that before administrators could examine that proposition, they first needed to clarify what exactly it meant.

“We don’t know what question two is telling us because of the way it was worded,” she said. “If it had been worded, ‘we think all of the fraternities should be co-ed,’ then that would be different.” But as Westphal pointed out, some students voted in favor of that proposition thinking it would ensure that a trans woman, for example, could rush the sorority, and not that it would mean a self-identifying man could join Theta.

“I think people who had diametrically opposed opinions may have voted the same way because they misunderstood the question,” she said.

While McTear said that he and the other brothers of Delta Upsilon were “one-hundred percent in support of” the concept of a co-ed Greek institution, he felt forcing Delta Upsilon to go co-ed would be a bad idea. “It would jeopardize our relationships with the national fraternity if we were to become a co-ed, gender inclusive fraternity. That’s a relationship we really cherish and want to maintain,” he said, emphasizing that the students voted that they did not support having Greek organizations disaffiliate. “The student body has agreed … that we should maintain our national affiliation, so that’s something we don’t want to jeopardize.”

Wu understood Delta Upsilon’s situation, pointing out that because the provision calling for the fraternities to disassociate with their national charters failed, asking them to admit more than one gender was tricky. “They are kind of contradictory,” Wu said, adding that she, and others, would need to talk to more people before any decision could be made.

According to Schaffer, the provision poses less of a problem for Phi Psi. “It’s more of an issue for the people who have national charters.”

While Schaffer could make no firm predictions for what would happen if someone who was not male tried to join Phi Psi, he suggested that the group would not close its doors. “I don’t think we’d turn them away. I think we have to be open and let them go through the process.”

He added that while there was no precedent for having Phi Psi be gender-inclusive, there is not, as far as he can remember, any prohibition on students of other genders joining. “Anyone is free to join if they want. They just have to go through the normal pledging process,” Schaffer said.

Still, Schaffer said that the organization would prefer to wait till the administration makes a final decision, and that, based on tradition, the fraternity would prefer to stay exclusive to male students. “I think our alumni would like to see it sort of stay with the composition that it has now,” he said.

But while Schaffer was less concerned about the ultimate outcome of the referendum, he was not pleased with the way the fight was conducted.

“I think the way the referendum process turned out was kind of embarrassing,” he said. “It turned into a really ugly thing that started out as a constructive dialogue between the two sides.”

In particular, Schaffer felt that the fraternities came under attacks that were unnecessarily personal.

“I think one of the most disturbing parts of the whole referendum process were the unwarranted accusations,” he said, referring, for example, to the chalkings accusing the organizations of harboring “a certain number of rapists.”

“It’s a false accusation with no evidence, no backing, and no one signing the statement,” he said.

However, Westphal said that some felt that erasing the chalkings crossed the boundaries of censorship. Westphal talked to a number of students in the wake of the chalkings. “One was a woman who had written about a rape of her that someone had washed off the sidewalk and she felt like that was making her rape insignificant and erased.”

But another had the opposite response. “I spoke to another woman who said, ‘I feel like I’m triggered and re-assaulted every time I walk on a pavement around here,’” said Westphal.

McTear felt the debate divided the campus to an unhealthy degree. “It has become a very polarized campus and that’s disheartening.”

Westphal agreed. “I haven’t seen Swarthmore students so strongly opposed to each other as in this conversation or debate.”

Regardless, students felt that the conversation needed to continue. Indeed, McTear indicated that he thought the process, in spite of the polarization, was beneficial. “The discussions, when we had them, were very positive and I hope we continue to have them,” he said, adding that his fraternity was trying to be more attentive to campus concerned.

Ashley Gochoco ’14, one of the leaders of Theta, said the sorority had similar aims. “The referendum serves as a reminder of this reality and the need for the Greek community to play a stronger role in making Swarthmore the most inclusive and safe place possible,” she said.

Wu pointed out that the high turnout rate and rancor indicated that this was an issue people felt strongly about. “Whatever peoples’ opinions are, they definitely do care.”

Joyce Wu is chief copy editor for The Phoenix. She had no role in the production of this article.

Voting Rights in the Hands of the Supreme Court

in Columns/Opinions/The Civil Libertarian by

At the moment, there is only one thing that holds any state accountable for its election practices, only one check on the ability of states to disenfranchise large segments of their population and discriminate indiscriminately. In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court seems ready to threaten this check, the Voting Rights Act, and to throw back to the states federal elections and with it endanger any hope of fairness whatsoever in an already beleaguered electoral system.

In September I wrote, regarding the Pennsylvania Voter ID law, that vesting control of elections with state governments was bad policy. This has been clearly demonstrated by the prevalence of gerrymandering and unfair election practices in such states as Pennsylvania and Ohio and the relative lack of such practices under the law in the South. The reason here seems to be Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain jurisdictions, primarily in the South, to clear any changes to their election laws with the Department of Justice. While this has not always been perfectly implemented, it has done a great deal to reduce institutional issues with the electoral process and reduce discrimination.

Unfortunately, the tides may be turning on Section 5, as the Supreme Court may well vote to strike it down as unconstitutional. That would be a mistake. The problem with our elections is not too much federal intervention, it’s too little.

Why should the federal government not have the right to decide how its own officers are elected, or at least to decide whether state laws are unreasonable? It seems reasonable that elections should be decided at the level of government to which they apply, local elections by localities, state elections by the state, and federal elections by the federal government. The current system allows parties to influence Congress not through congressional elections, but through state legislatures. By focusing resources there, they can pack the houses and create gerrymandered districts that cement their majority at both the state and federal levels. Such has been the case under Democrats and Republicans both.

Bringing election law up to the federal level would shine a light in an otherwise opaque system. It seems inconceivable that systematized discrimination and disenfranchisement could be supported at the federal level in the same way that it is at the state level. There is much more attention paid to the federal government by each branch at the others and by the media. It is far easier to find out what is going on in Congress than in state legislatures, as there is always someone from the opposition yelling on TV. Have Congress create a standard system of election to be implemented across the country, and the issue would no longer be at all hidden from the public view; there would be vigorous public debate.

Partisan politics at the federal level is frequently a roadblock to progress, but it also ensures that issues are brought to light. A vocal opposition with a national pulpit prevents the majority from ramrodding legislation without oversight. This level of opposition is not shared in state legislatures, think Massachusetts or Utah, nor does any assemblyman have the same access to the public forum as does a member of Congress. By putting partisanship to work, by taking this issue from states and giving it to the federal government, we can ensure a more transparent and, hopefully, fairer process.

The Supreme Court may disagree with me here. I acknowledge that their job is to interpret the law as it is, not to find the best policy .If they decide to uphold the law, I would hope that we can move to extend the act to the entire country, and give Congress the power to standardize federal elections nationally. If the law is struck down, then election law may well be set back decades. The law that forced an end to voter discrimination and rolled back Jim Crow laws would lose one of its most powerful tools, in a way which seems to prevent any meaningful way of enforcing anti-discrimination laws.

For anti-discrimination legislation to be successful, there must be a way to enforce it, and that is exactly what Section 5 does. I say we take it a step further and acknowledge that there is discrimination everywhere, not just in the South. It shouldn’t matter where one votes, the process should be the same, and eligibility should be subject to the same rules everywhere. None of this is new, this is just democracy. We should protect our democracy, not hide its process and lessen the ability of the government to fight discrimination and corruption. The Voting Rights Act does not overstep, indeed it does not go far enough, but it is a start, a job left that we should work to complete.

Election Time Spurs Action on Campus

in Around Campus/News by

With the United States’ presidential election quickly approaching, politics is a prominent topic of debate around campus. And because Swarthmore College found a way around Pennsylvania’s voter identification registration law, the election is increasingly personal to Swarthmore students.

The law, implemented this year, requires that any registered Pennsylvania voter own a government-issued photo ID with a valid expiration date. After much outcry that this law discriminates against students, the elderly and lower-income citizens, Swarthmore found a way to allow its students to still vote.

“The Swarthmore College student ID card is legal voter ID for voting in Swarthmore, PA, because the College ID has your name, photo, an (unexpired) expiration date, and proves your Swarthmore affiliation,” Registrar Martin Warner wrote in an email addressed to the entire student body.

Warner is not the only person on campus who is trying to get the word out about voting, though. Several student groups, including Swarthmore College Democrats and STAND, also plan to be particularly politically active in relation to the upcoming presidential election.

Swarthmore College Democrats, for example, will be tabling in Sharples Dining Hall later this month to increase voter registration on campus.

“I’m hoping we get the word out enough that [students] realize that [the Swarthmore ID] is fine,” Swarthmore College Democrats President Allegra Pocinki ’14 said.

Additionally, the Swarthmore College Democrats are working on three campaigns for this election — the Barack Obama presidential campaign, the George Badey seventh congressional district campaign, and the Larry DeMarco state house campaign for the 164th district.  In fact, Badey spoke at Swarthmore on September 4.

“We are organizing groups of students who want to work for specific campaigns to take them to the campaign offices,” Pocinki said. “We’re also doing a lot for the voter ID law, helping people [in Chester] fill out forms, getting them educated on what’s different this year.”

STAND, a student anti-genocide coalition, is also trying to spread political awareness on campus. While predominantly focusing on the budget cut on foreign aid, which prevents genocide, STAND President Danny Hirschel-Burns ’14 also plans to hold a viewing party for the debates and hold discussions the following day to discuss what each candidate proposes in relation to genocide.

Regardless of the primary focus, student groups on campus encourage students to be politically aware and vote in the upcoming election.

“I feel like everybody should be [politically aware,] because that’s what the system is based on,” Pocinki said. “I feel like people who complain about day-to-day events and don’t participate should really be helping out [in any way possible.]”

Allegra Pocinki is a layout editor for The Phoenix. She had no role in the production of this article.

StuCo Prepares to Re-cast Votes After Annulment of Last Year’s Election Results

in Around Campus/News by
Daniel Cho’s flyers covered the entranceway to Sharples in a campaign for Student Council Co-President.
Daniel Cho for The Phoenix

The abrupt annulment of the spring Student Council elections last semester amid a hectic final exam period took Swatties by surprise, leaving many confused on the exact reasons for this decision.This turn of events began with an official appeal made by one of the presidential candidates — Victor Brady ’13 — after the election’s conclusion. The appeal raised two issues; that his opposing candidate — Daniel Cho ’13 — had been soliciting votes and intimidating voters at the polling station and that inadequate time had been provided to the candidates to make their platforms public.In the end, the council adhered to a strict interpretation of Section 1.3.1 of the Constitution, overturning the results of all four races because 14 days had not been allotted to publicize platforms.Secretary Sarah Dwider ’13 elaborated on the council’s decision. “While both complaints were seen as valid, the platform publicizing issue was more all-encompassing and the decision to overturn the election was primarily based on it, although the issue of election interference was also significant,” she said.Much of the subsequent confusion about the reason for the overturn originated from the council’s official email sent out on May 3, which listed the charges of electioneering without mention of the platform publicizing issue.“A candidate engaged in asking a significant portion of students to vote for them at the voting station. The candidate then continued to watch the students vote resulting in intimidation. In accordance with Section 1.6.3 of our Constitution, ‘If SC finds that an election was fraudulent to the extent that the determination of the winner was probably affected, the election shall be voided,’ Student Council has, thus, voided the results of the entire election,” said Co-President Matt Lamb ’12 in the email.

Cho, who won the first election by a rather wide margin of 131 votes, felt the ambiguous charge of electioneering was political.

“While hanging up flyers, and in the presence of another Student Council representative, I asked a couple students if they had voted yet, then told those who were interested about my platform.  There are no rules against Election Day campaigning, and I was there for less than half an hour on Election Day. The idea that I was somehow coercing other students came out of left field.”
While Cho questioned the integrity of the entire appeal, stating, “I am a bit skeptical if Mr. Brady would have appealed the elections on constitutional grounds had the election been in his favor,” he noted that he was excited to have continued dialogues with other students. “I am looking forward to sharing my ideas once again about how we can improve Swat life and Student Council’s roles on campus. I am still very hopeful that we can accomplish good things this year.”

The appeal meeting was held on May 3. No official records of the meeting exist because appeal meetings do not require the proceedings to be recorded.

The council found the issue over platform publicizing unambiguous. The complaint stated that candidates were only given 10 days notice to publicize their platforms instead of the two weeks, or 14 days, that Section 1.3.1 of the Constitution requires.

According to a strict reading of the constitution, this violation would invalidate the entire election.

The decision on the issue of election interference, however, was complicated by the weak wording of the StuCo Constitution on the guidelines for campaigns and elections.

“While there is no official rule prohibiting this [practice], many people felt it was a violation of an unwritten rule,” Appointments Chair William Lawrence ’12 said.

Lawrence described the council’s deliberations over the fate of the election as “highly contentious,” with some members advocating a strict reading of the constitution and the overturn of the entire election.

“The rest of StuCo wanted to only re-do the presidential election, to ensure fairness and that people’s votes would not be influenced, but preserve the results of the other three races,” Lawrence said.

Not all of the council members are in accordance with the decision to scrap the election on the basis of the relatively minor infractions raised, with Lawrence being the most vocal.

“I was, and still am, strongly opposed to throwing out the entire election. To invalidate the races based on a small technicality seemed unfair to the students who voted, and the candidates who devoted their time to what turned out to be an irrelevant election,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence also stressed that the council’s purpose is to advocate the interests of the Swarthmore student body and hope that similar quarrels will not limit its mission in the future.

“Students have a lot of legitimate concerns and Student Council should be working with students to have those concerns met by the administration. I hope Student Council can move past this business and work with the entire student body to build power and improve this college for all of us,” Lawrence said.

Despite the controversy on the overturn decision, the council hopes to start over with a clean slate and has urged all of the previous candidates to run again in the emergency elections to be held during the fall semester.

Co-President Gabby Capone ‘14, currently leading the election committee, said “This [election] will be further discussed and planned during Orientation week so that we can hit the ground running, and in our StuCo meetings, which are open to all.”

In response to the disputes over the interpretation of the Constitution, one of the election committee’s main tasks will be to improve the limitations and ambiguities in its wording.

“Prior to the election, Student Council will draft more specific campaign and election guidelines in order to ensure these circumstances do not arise again,” Co-President Matt Lamb ’12 stated.

Dwider further commented on the preparations for the election. “Right now, we’re just making sure we cross the t’s and dot the i’s and have everything in order so that the next elections will run more smoothly.”

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