The letter of the AS (by) law

    If anything good has come out of this year’s A.S. elections — and that’s highly debatable — it’s the growing recognition that the elections bylaws are riddled with problems. Whether those flaws are vague wording, ill-defined terms or flat-out loopholes, they have been exposed by the elections circus in which we’ve been stuck for the past three weeks.

    What is a poster? How do we define “”campaigning””? How should elections committee hearings be run and decided — and should there be an elections committee at all? Which punishments are appropriate for which violations? These issues are all currently being tackled by members of the A.S. Council and the UCSD community, while they struggle to leave the bylaws clearer and fairer for next year’s political hopefuls.

    But, perhaps the most necessary change concerns conduct issues that are not currently regulated by the bylaws: honesty and ethical campaigning.

    The bylaws currently prohibit blatantly dishonest campaigning. Candidates may not “”falsify information on Election Candidacy forms or campaign materials”” or “”commit libel or slander against another candidate or slate.”” Before this year, these regulations might have seemed sufficient to keep things clean.

    Then came Kevin Hsu — not Kevin Shawn Hsu, the Students First! slate’s candidate for president, but Revelle College junior Kevin Hsu, who had no political experience and whose only chance of being elected president was his involvement with a student organization called Students First!

    Confused? You should be. You were meant to be. Kevin Hsu’s run for president was masterminded by former A.S. presidential candidate Phil Palisoul, who managed to orchestrate one of the most misleading campaigns in UCSD history, all without telling a single lie. Kevin Hsu’s candidate statement presented him as having held many of the offices Kevin Shawn Hsu has held, including “”Warren Sophomore Senator”” and “”A.S. Vice President Internal.”” But since these positions were later shown to have actually existed in the Students First! organization, the candidate statement was technically true and therefore not grounds for punishment or disqualification.

    So what we have is a candidate intentionally misleading voters — going so far in his statement as to claim that he was “”the REAL Kevin Hsu”” — and an elections committee powerless to penalize him. Clearly, we have a problem, and the solution is obvious: add a provision to the bylaws that prohibits the deliberate misinformation and misleading of voters.

    To be fair to Palisoul, he has long claimed that the purpose of the Kevin Hsu stunt was not to sabotage Kevin Shawn Hsu’s campaign or to give voters a bum steer, but rather to point out exactly this flaw in the bylaws; and Palisoul is now an active proponent of including in the bylaws a code of conduct to which candidates would have to adhere or face sanction from the elections committee. Under this code of conduct, anyone conducting a campaign like the one he ran for Kevin Hsu could easily be disqualified.

    It’s true that such a change would place more discretionary power at the disposal of the elections committee (or whoever else ends up hearing grievances under the potentially revised bylaws), which could open the door to abuse. But this year’s elections committee has done an excellent job of faithfully executing the duties of their offices and remaining unbiased. The people enforcing the rules are not the problem — it’s the rules themselves that need changing. We must trust the bodies that appoint elections committee members to select representatives with good judgment and a keen sense of fair play.

    As voters, we all want to know who we’re electing and what they stand for. This requires honesty beyond the truth found in technicalities — it requires a commitment to ethics and a desire to represent oneself and one’s opponents fairly and accurately. It’s plain to see that many candidates for political office at UCSD and in loftier halls of government lack this commitment. But perhaps threatened punishment is exactly what we need to force this commitment upon them and clean up campus politics once and for all. More accurately informed voters are better voters, and more truth makes for a better democracy.

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