Editorial

    The 2003 A.S. elections will run much differently than in past years. UC President Richard C. Atkinson announced recently that he would discontinue UCSD’s (and other campuses’) traditional practice of limiting the amount of money a student government candidate can spend on campaign materials. Now students of means can spend however much they like on their bids for an A.S. position.

    Campaign finance issues are hotly debated on the national scene, and this will undoubtedly cause controversy on campus as well.

    We would like to commend the A.S. Council for passing legislation calling for voluntary spending limits. Following in the footsteps of California elections, future A.S. candidates will be asked to voluntarily sign a contract under which they would voluntarily limit their spending to preset limits. This strikes a nice balance between the legal need for no limits and the need to level the playing field with spending caps.

    The A.S. Council showed a lot of strength in not quickly giving in to public pressure and abandoning the limits altogether. They stuck by their beliefs and struck a compromise that allowed them to attempt to keep some type of limits intact. We commend them for that.

    However, the Guardian would like to point out a few flaws that could cause great controversy in the future of A.S. elections.

    First, the A.S. Council insists on not only listing which candidates opted for the spending limit at the top of the ballot, but also on branding each candidate with his or her choice on the matter. Next to each candidate’s name will be a statement whether he or she decided to accept or decline the voluntary spending limit. While some argue that this is just a statement of fact, it is not the council’s place to place a negative stereotype on a candidate. The courts have ruled repeatedly that when “”incentives”” to accept spending limits turn into “”coercion”” to accept them, then it becomes illegal. It would be acceptable if only those who accepted the limits received labels on the ballots, but once those who did not sign up for the voluntary limits get publicly branded for it, it becomes highly questionable in legality.

    The second issue is the seemingly large loophole in the bylaws that would allow like-minded individuals to spend money as individuals while pooling money together like slates. There is a provision for the A.S. elections manager to review these cases. Based on his judgement, he can, in effect, make people become slates, but this sets up a dangerous precedent in which individuals could be branded a slate when it was not their intention to become one. By doing so, the council would deny those individuals their constitutional right not to associate with other people, an issue the court has been very intent on over the years.

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