MSA electoral audit sheds light on BEC chairwoman’s perspective

The Operations committee voted to not pursue impeaching Henderson.

The Missouri Students Association Operations committee conducted an electoral audit during their meeting Dec. 2. Students, staff and Board of Elections Commissioners Chairwoman Emma Henderson voiced their concerns about this past MSA presidential election, and the committee voted to not impeach Henderson.

During the election, Henderson’s ruling was called into question on replacing two major infractions issued to the Gomez/Hanner and Ejaz/Parrie slates with a $300 fine each, the penalty for a third minor infraction.

Per the BEC handbook, after a slate receives their first major infraction, they must stop campaigning for 72 hours. However, since there were less than 72 hours left in the election, they did the equivalent of a “plea deal.”

“We didn’t feel that it was fair for them to have those consequences and not be able to go through the appeals process because at the end of the day we want to run similar to a democracy,” Henderson said. “If you don’t have the right to a fair trial then we have to find something else to do and that is what the sanctions were.”

She said there were accusations made by MSA senators about the fines being equivalent to a bribe, which is considered a criminal offense, so they could resume campaigning. The $300 charged to the Gomez/Hanner and Ejaz/Parrie slates did not go to Henderson but toward MSA operating costs.

Henderson said she did the best she could with the information that was given to her because the slates had put her in a difficult situation.

“I could no longer act in good faith with the slates because I had been lied to my face multiple times when approached about infractions,” Henderson said. “We could only go off of the very basic facts that we could prove.”

Henderson said their decision to issue Gomez/Hanner a major infraction came from the fact that they could not prove that a notification from Pocket Points actually caused someone to vote because people still had free will. In addition, there was no incentive for students from Pocket Points to vote for Gomez/Hanner.

MSA Operations Committee Chairman Dan Paterson dedicated the Dec. 2 Operations meeting to an electoral audit because he wanted to ensure people were directly communicating with each other and that information was clarified as rumor or fact. He said in the meeting that this election was “a bit more chaotic than normal.”

Henderson said during the election there were many rumors floating around regarding accusations and infractions. Only two students had approached her about getting the facts. In years to come, she said that needs to change. She said she had mentioned earlier this semester that she was more than happy to sit down with anyone and have a conversation about anything related to the election.

“If you want the information and have concerns, come and talk to me,” Henderson said.

After she saw a “vague” post in the MSA Senate Facebook group which said Senate was having a “special meeting” on Nov. 17, she said she texted people to ask what the meeting was about. As it neared closer to midnight, Henderson still had not heard back from anyone, so she decided to go to the meeting herself. Once she arrived, she said the meeting had just ended and she was told that there were papers being filed for her impeachment.

“After (the senate meeting), it was hell,” Henderson said. “People passed judgment. I was not allowed to speak for myself, or advocate for myself or explain was going on.”

Had she been told what the meeting was about, Henderson said she would have gathered paperwork or would have prepared a presentation for the senators.

She said though she was pressured to kick Gomez/Hanner out of the election, Henderson said she could not do so because she did not have any numbers or hard evidence to do so.

“(Kicking someone out) sets an incredibly dangerous precedent,” Henderson said. “Incredibly dangerous. We are the student leaders. We are the student government at this university. We need to act appropriately.”

BEC Vice-Chair Mark McDaniel said the election process itself this year did not look good for anyone in MSA because 35,000 other people who are watching them and ensuring everything that MSA does is for the students. He said there needs to be a conversations to define what exactly a slate is and whether mass communication from apps of a third-party developer would constitute as emails.

“We cannot make this a dogfight between each other because we all want an iron throne within the CSI,” McDaniel said. “If we do that, then every single one of you should resign from your post effective immediately, because you do not have what it takes to be a student leader.”

MSA advisor Farouk Aregbe said instead of trying to impeach someone, they should focus on improving the election process because removing one person would not make the entire process any better.

Former MSA presidential candidates Syed Ejaz and Jordan McFarland agreed with Aregbe. Ejaz felt it was most important to ensure procedures are followed correctly rather than focusing on what Henderson did right or wrong.

“That level of analysis should not only be applied to the BEC but to everyone who was a part of the election,” Ejaz said. “I think that if you have bylaws, a constitution and stuff like that you should be making sure that it is followed correctly.”

McFarland said there were actions that the system allowed and things people could get away with, and hopes that MSA can fix that so that there are no instances where people can “kind of be cheating.”

“We’re better than that,” McFarland said. “The student body deserves better than that. For every calorie of effort we spend discussing whether or not one person was cheating, we’re missing out on some of the brightest moments campus has seen, in civil rights, talking about Planned Parenthood, and these elections that could have been about something more.”

Emily Gallion contributed to this report.

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