Junior Derek Chung, who was confirmed as the Board of Elections Commissioners chairman on March 19, is planning to introduce changes to how student leaders are allowed to campaign for student votes in the 2014 Missouri Students Association presidential election.
Among the major changes Chung has planned for the BEC Handbook is allowing MSA presidential slates to use MSA auxiliaries.
A BEC regulation restricting any use of MSA auxiliaries for campaigning purposes sparked controversy during the 2013 election. Chung said he believes campaigns using auxiliaries will have no effect on the integrity of the election and would encourage increased competition among the slates.
“I believe the limits on using auxiliaries didn’t make any sense and was a shortcoming on our part,” Chung said. “These regulations hurt the excitement and freedom of the election. They do not affect the legitimacy of the election, which is all we (the BEC) should care about.”
The deregulation allows presidential slates to use auxiliaries for paid services, including making promotional materials and buying advertisements.
MSA Senate Speaker Ben Bolin said he is excited about opening up possibilities for future slates.
“The biggest thing is that we are allowing candidates to use auxiliaries like Craft Studios for pins, Design Center for websites, and MUTV and KCOU for advertisements,” Bolin said. “Opening those possibilities up is good, and will create a completely different ballgame this year.”
Restrictions on the use of sweepstakes and donating to charities will be decreased as well, Chung said.
Regulating the election too closely, Chung added, forced the BEC to either enforce issues that did not compromise the election or make exceptions to the rules.
“My biggest problem with last year’s election was over-regulation,” Chung said. “Once the (new) handbook is passed, I’m going to enforce it all the way, or leave it up to the judicial branch to decide what happens.”
However, former BEC chairman David Wettroth expressed concern for Chung’s plans for deregulating campaign rules.
“I honestly believe that competition and creativity was not lacking in the previous elections,” Wettroth said in an email. “I believe the use of auxiliaries is important to the elections, but I am hesitant to deregulate the elections any more … you have to be careful with wanting to increase competition in the elections because issues between slates could arise.”
Chung said additional changes to the handbook include more precise interpretations of exchanging of monetary incentives for student votes and obstruction of the election process.
During the 2013 election, the Schara-Haberberger slate launched a Twitter contest that promised philanthropic donations to the Greek chapter that tweeted the most about the slate.
Chung said because tweets are not votes, the changes to the handbook will allow slates to hold similar promotional contests.
Another challenge the new handbook will attempt to address is defining what a campaign worker is. However, Chung said this would prove to be a difficult task.
“If we make all these parameters to define a campaign worker, just one person outside that definition can hurt the election,” he said. “So it may be in our best interest to either deregulate or regulate that. We are going over this issue over the next month before the handbook is passed.”
The handbook will be voted on at senate’s final session of the semester on May 9.
Wettroth said his suggestion to Chung would be that the BEC chair does not have to be beholden to public feedback.
“I would like (Chung) to know that he doesn’t need to be bullied by anyone, including Maneater staff,” he said. “People will try to force a response from the BEC chair, but you need to hold firm in your decisions and not let anyone tell anyone tell you otherwise … (Chung) should also be familiar with the Sunshine Law, in case this wasn’t just a one-time thing.”