Editorial: MSA needs to nullify election and hold another

In light of the new incriminating GroupMe messages, it’s clear Haden Gomez and Chris Hanner should’ve been disqualified before the announcement Nov. 19.
Haden Gomez speaks about one of his cabinet members before he gets questioned for confirmation on Jan. 26 in the Student Center.

When the Missouri Students Association Senate meets tonight, it’s essential they recognize that it’s in their own self-interest, as well as that of the student body, to nullify the entire MSA election and hold another in its place in the upcoming weeks, even if it involves amending the constitution.

In light of the new incriminating evidence in the form of GroupMe messages that surfaced Tuesday night, it’s clear Gomez/Hanner should’ve been disqualified before the announcement Nov. 19. The screenshots show conduct unbecoming of two people elected to represent the undergraduate student body.

One of three resolutions drafted by the Operations Committee last night would nullify the election and allow 72 hours for Senate to determine their next steps.

Passing this resolution makes the most sense. The Senate needs time to decide how to proceed in holding another election, which will preserve the legitimacy of MSA as much as possible.

The GroupMe message screenshots sent by MSA President-elect Haden Gomez, Vice President-elect Chris Hanner and former campaign managers Josh Boehm and Natalie Edelstein, reveal a series of misrepresentations, purposeful deceit and coordinated campaign violations from within the campaign.

In addition to the major infraction filed for the Pocket Points advertisement during the election, Gomez/Hanner also received a minor infraction for mass text messages sent by Edelstein urging friends to vote for the slate in various GroupMe messages.

During the election, however, the Board of Elections Commissioners ruled the violation as minor rather than major on the grounds that Edelstein was not a formal member of the slate and there was “insufficient evidence to show either Gomez or Hanner had actual knowledge of the texts,” the court’s writ read.

At the time, we argued it was exceptionally naive to presume that both Gomez and Hanner had no idea what their campaign manager was up to during the election. All the same, the BEC gave her and Gomez/Hanner the benefit of the doubt by ruling it a minor infraction.

Now with this new evidence, it’s clear Gomez/Hanner were fully aware of Edelstein’s actions and even participated in the misconduct themselves.

That makes two major infractions, which would have been enough to remove Gomez/Hanner from the election before the results were announced.

But it doesn’t stop there. As it turns out, there is more to the original major infraction Gomez/Hanner received for their use of the Pocket Points app during the election. At the time, when questioned about the advertisement, Gomez insisted that Pocket Points had endorsed the slate of its own accord.

In actuality, the Gomez/Hanner slate and their campaign staff had carefully chosen the wording of the notification themselves and were deliberate in creating a perception of innocence.

Additionally, the messages indicate that the slate worked to cover up payment made to Pocket Points for the notification. It’s impossible at this point to determine whether this payment was made prior to the election (which is not a violation) or during the election.

This is not the behavior of a leader with integrity. The GroupMe messages illustrate an exceptional and disturbing willingness on the part of Gomez and Hanner to prioritize covering their own asses over serving MU’s student body.

There is no doubt that the Gomez/Hanner slate cannot be inaugurated this Saturday. Regardless of what happens next in MSA, this must not come to pass.

The situation that the Missouri Students Association now finds itself itself in is, without a doubt, unprecedented. But, there is currently no BEC. The BEC chair and vice chair’s terms ended at the end of last semester. The new chair is appointed jointly by the MSA president, senate speaker and chief justice in the spring semester.

If there were a BEC chair right now, they could turn the Edelstein GroupMe minor violation into a major violation, effectively removing Gomez/Hanner from the race and making Ejaz/Parrie the winners.

Since Ejaz/Parrie garnered 35.4 percent of the vote, no new election would be necessary, per the runoff procedure defined in the bylaws.

The existing Senate bylaws allow the BEC to delay elections in the face of “extreme circumstances including, but not limited to, investigations against a particular slate” but say nothing of what to do when new evidence of major violations committed by the winning slate comes to light after the election.

That being said, the next steps that the MSA Senate make are as much about doing the morally correct thing as they are about self-preservation. In the wake of this immense debacle, the public perception of MSA as a student government has been irrevocably tarnished.

It’s time to begin healing MSA’s reputation and integrity. First step: Nullify the 2015 election.

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