MSA plans to reuse last year’s BEC Handbook

The Board of Elections Commissioners, which oversees the MSA presidential election, could not fill all positions in time to write a new handbook for the upcoming election.
Sen. Joshua Tennison stands next to the projected piece of legislation following the screenshot scandal of the 2015 MSA presidential election. Tennison is chairman of the Operations Committee, which passed the resolution to use last year's BEC handbook. Maneater File Photo

This year, the Missouri Students Association Board of Elections Commissioners will submit the exact same election handbook as last year due to an inability to rewrite the document in time.

In years past, a major task of the BEC has been to rewrite the board’s handbook, which provides rules for the association’s presidential election. According to a resolution to reinstate last year’s handbook, which passed through the Operations Committee on Tuesday, this is because the BEC was unable to fill all positions in time to produce a new handbook before the presidential election.

“Upon the moving of the election to Spring, the President and Senate Speaker worked on a prospective schedule to get a BEC in place by the end of the Fall Semester,” the resolution states. “A lack of participation by students in the fall led to an incomplete BEC less than two months to the constitutionally mandated election date. As such, no handbook has been passed in time for potential slates to review, hindering the electoral process.”

BEC Chairwoman Brooke Wiggins confirmed that the main issue with passing the handbook was a lack of applicants to the board.

“The largest difficulty was finding vice chairs,” Wiggins said in an email. “In the time that the application has been open I only had one applicant. This mixed with having 2 capstone classes last semester didn't really help out.”

The only applicant was Grace Bommel, who Wiggins said was “very qualified.” Bommel was confirmed in the Operations Committee meeting Tuesday.

In the past, the handbook has passed as an act, which takes two full Senate meetings. This year, the handbook is a resolution, which only requires one meeting to pass. The handbook wasn’t introduced until the first meeting of the semester, on Tuesday. The filing date of the election is scheduled for Feb. 9.

“[Senate Speaker Mark McDaniel] contacted me about the possibility of making a resolution and passing it through senate soon,” Wiggins said. “Since I had read over the handbook a few times and didn't see anything that should be changed immediately, I thought this seemed like a fine idea.”

McDaniel said in an email that issues with the timeline of the passage of the handbook and selection of the BEC vice chairs “are being addressed by Senate and the BEC.” He pointed out this is the first election since the spring 2016 special election. Before the special election, the presidential special election had been held in the fall, so the timing of the upcoming presidential election is relatively new.

Operations Chairman Josh Tennison said it was hard to say whether the procedure being used to pass the handbook was “usual” or not.

“Last year, for the special election, was the first time we made sweeping changes in a while,” he said. “It really comes down to issues that the current BEC feels need to be made. It’s hard to say yes to that question because it’s kind of the nature of humanity.”

This isn’t the first time MSA has diverged from typical procedure to pass the handbook in time. Last fall, Senate suspended the rules to pass the handbook as an act in one meeting instead of two.

“We definitely want to make sure that this is all well taken care of in the future, that there’s just no confusion and there isn’t this tension that exists,” former Senate Speaker Kevin Carr said in a September 2015 interview.

The BEC chairwoman at the time, Emma Henderson, was later almost impeached for the way she handled infractions during the election.

Wiggins said her goal for the election was to not give any slates infractions.

“My hope for this election season is that we have clean, informative, well-run campaigns,” she said. “I'm not one that wants to deal with a lot of drama and so finding a way to avoid that is key to me. My personal goal, although maybe not fully attainable, is to not have any infractions or penalties.”

Fiona Murphy contributed to this report

Edited by Nancy Coleman | ncoleman@themaneater.com

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