Candidates, BEC chair say ‘All In Mizzou’ campaign infraction highlights structural issues in MSA election process

The slate said at an MSA committee meeting that the infraction, which involved the alleged use of profanity during campaigning, was the result of an imperfect system.

Update: The MSA court has decided to reopen voting in the MSA presidential election, citing the profanity infraction being enforced "despite bias in the sources," according to a March 7 tweet from the BEC. Voting will run for an additional 24 hours, starting at noon on March 7.

The Board of Elections Commissioners handed down a campaign infraction to the “All In Mizzou” slate for a campaign worker’s alleged use of profanity Feb. 26 toward members of the “Show Your Stripes” slate while campaigning in Speakers Circle.

The infraction comes during the voting period for the Missouri Students Association presidency, which ends Wednesday at 6 p.m. The slate, comprised of presidential candidate Solomon Davis and vice presidential candidate Briana Dinwiddie, questioned the decision during a March 5 meeting of the MSA senate operations committee.

Davis said he was concerned that not all information regarding the alleged infraction was heard by BEC. He said his slate had compiled statements from the workers involved in the infraction and was prepared to provide them to BEC.

“The BEC did not give us the option to submit anything,” Davis said. “We would have happily provided [a statement].”

During the meeting, Davis asked BEC Chair Joseph Sell whether he believed these statements could have changed the initial ruling on the infraction.

“There should have been more conversation,” Sell said, affirming to Davis that the information may have had an influence on his decision.

Use of profanity while campaigning regularly carries a penalty of a slate’s immediate expulsion, according to the MSA election code. However, Sell said he downgraded the penalty because the campaign worker was not a candidate or officially listed on the “All In Mizzou” website.

Sell told the committee he was unable to interview the “All In Mizzou” staffer who allegedly committed the infraction.

“I could not get an identification exactly on the person,” Sell said.

Sell said he interviewed the two “Show Your Stripes” staffers who filed a Form C — used to allege an infraction, according to the election code — and was confident in their testimony because of the consequences of lying to the BEC.

“Both witnesses, which includes the filer of the Form C, are members of the opposing slate who would face expulsion for lying to the BEC or falsifying the form C,” Sell wrote in a March 4 press release regarding the infraction.

Sell said the organization's current understaffing — a full staff would include two additional BEC staffers to assist in infraction cases — impedes on his ability to make holistic rulings on a short deadline.

“I’m one person,” Sell said. “At the end of the day, there’s a reason there’s an appeal there. The BEC’s very limited and the assumption has always been that the court will hear any infraction that is handed out.”

Infraction cases are initially ruled on by BEC and appeals are heard by the MSA court, according to the MSA election code. However, the MSA judicial branch did not hear the appeal filed by “All In Mizzou,” which Sell said he took an issue with.

“The court did not even hear the case, so I think there are flaws with that,” Sell said to the committee. “They did not provide reasoning on why they didn’t hear the case.”

Sell said he was confident in ruling quickly because he believed the court was going to hear the appeal, which would have provided for more time to gather information on the infraction.

“In previous years, the court has heard every infraction,” Sell said.

Because the court decided not to hear the appeal of the decision, however, Sell said the infraction ruling — and the 24-hour campaigning suspension currently in effect — will stand.

Edited by Emily Wolf | ewolf@themaneater.com

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