New BEC handbook promotes competition, creativity
The Board of Elections Commissioners are prepared to oversee a fair election while promoting more freedom for each slate.
Sep. 23, 2014
The Board of Elections Commissioners handbook that passed last semester loosened regulations, encouraging more competition and creativity for the upcoming Missouri Students Association presidential election.
Normally, the handbook is passed during the fall semester. However, because changing the BEC handbook right before the election had caused some anxiety among the slates, it was passed in the spring this year.
“Passing all these changes right before the election caused a mass hysteria effect because once the slates are about to get ready for their campaigns, rules change,” BEC chairman Derek Chung said. “By having the summer to relax, it helps with the nerves and makes it a more finite platform to work off of instead of some malleable book that can be changed at any moment.”
Another perceived advantage of passing the handbook in the spring semester is that it is less likely to be influenced by future slates.
“There’s worry about influence of people running having an input of what goes into the handbook,” BEC vice chairman Tyler Gill said. “If we pass it in the spring, it’s less likely that the slates running will have an impact on the rules.”
The 2014 BEC handbook states that slates are now allowed to use the resources offered to them by MSA auxiliaries, as long as the auxiliary does not support a specific candidate.
“I believe that the essence of this rule was so the slates don’t get some kind of support from different auxiliaries which may cause conflict,” Chung said. “That’s what we were trying to avoid.”
He said it is also more economical for MSA to use their auxiliaries.
The BEC now also allows slates to choose their polling locations earlier. Previously, slates chose their locations a week prior to voting in mid-November. This year, they can choose their location at the beginning of soft campaigning in mid-October, which encourages more competition and creativity.
This will create a smoother election process for slates by letting them prepare ahead of time instead of waiting for certain dates — one week wasn’t enough time to fix problems should they occur, Chung said.
“It promotes competition because of the free market idea that you can get things done as quickly as possible if you work harder and are more prepared than the other candidates,” Chung said. “They can affect their outcomes by how hard and how quickly they work, which can reflect how someone would do in the presidency.”
Because the slates have more freedom, the chairmen said the BEC will maintain its authority by creating personal connections with each slate to prevent infractions.
“Last year, the election was really controlled, so (less regulation) is more of a comfortable situation instead of a hostile one,” BEC vice chairwoman Alexandra Humes said. “We’re looking for more of an open line of communication with the slates.”
Chung said that to show the BEC is looking out for them and not against them, the BEC hopes that the slates will trust them to prevent infractions. He said he hopes to be like a counselor to them on election laws and provide a fair election.
“When you have that personal connection, you’re less likely to have violations because you know them personally,” Gill said. “We’re not just observing from a distance. We really do have oversight.”
Should a major or minor infraction occur, the BEC will evaluate each situation on an individual basis. Instead of implementing official amendments, their goal is to come to a decision faster.
“As long as I can logically justify some kind of competition or promotion that a slate does, I would allow it,” Chung said. “It would be hard writing that much bureaucracy to try to avoid bad outcomes when I can just make those decisions myself.”
However, not having those official amendments in the handbook may cause a problem as years continue, said Garrett Poorman, former president of Tigers Advancing Political Participation.
“It’s better to set a frame of reference to dictate rules and follow them consistently,” Poorman said.
Poorman worked closely with Chung on the handbook last semester.
“It’s always better when you have things written down so there’s guidelines, but they shouldn’t be too detailed or specific because you need room for discussion,” Poorman said.
Several of Poorman’s suggestions didn’t make it into the handbook last semester.
These included tracking where each slate spent their money and publishing that information online, not allowing candidates to run their own booths and prohibiting slates from distributing free gifts at their polling locations.
He said he believed that students should be able to see how the money they contributed was being spent. Also, candidates running their own booths and giving out items isn’t how a real election works, Poorman said.
“Competition is great, but slates should be competing with their ideas and experience, not donuts and coffee,” Poorman said. “It’s possible there could’ve been more changes, but some are just philosophical differences that prevented those.”
In upcoming years, the BEC should continue to have accountability and transparency, Poorman said. There has been a lot of indecisiveness in the past, but he said he doesn’t see that being an issue this year.
“The rulebook is extremely clear this year,” Humes said. “If the slates have any questions, they can come to us first. I think we’re a really fair group of individuals, and we’re going to make the election as fair as it possibly can be.”