Hearing Board rules Cougar Party's victory valid

by Robert Schoenberger

Daily Cougar Senior Staff

All sides are claiming victory in the wake of a ruling by the Dean of Students Hearing Board upholding Students' Association elections Tuesday.

A group led by Coalition Party presidential candidate Patrick Lalor charged the victorious Cougar Party with violations of the election code requiring campaigners to stay 50 feet away from polling locations.

John Moore, the victorious Cougar Party SA presidential candidate, defended his party's practices and said Lalor "wants to be elected by the Hearing Board."

"Mr. Lalor, I think maybe you should have campaigned instead," Moore said, continuing until he was suddenly cut off by members of the Hearing Board.

Assistant Election Commissioner John McLaughlin said the Election Commission had heard Lalor's complaint and still ruled the elections valid.

"Looking at sheer number, I don't think it could have had an effect on the election," McLaughlin said. The Cougar Party won all positions it sought by a clear margin.

The Hearing Board agreed with the Election Commission that there were violations, but the violations did not affect the outcome of the elections.

The Hearing Board then charged SA to change the election code to require an official to keep campaigners at a 50-foot radius from polling places.

Lalor's main complaint centered around two incidents during the election. The first incident was an appearance of Moore at the Satellite on the day of the election.

"We're not discussing whether or not it happened. It did," Lalor said of the violations. "We're talking about what we should do about it."

Moore said he went into the Satellite to buy a drink and that he shook Lalor's hand when he saw him there. He added, "After that, I marched my butt right away from there."

The second complaint was that a Cougar Party campaigner led two students to the polling place, took the forms from the polling official and directed the students toward certain candidates on the ballots.

McLaughlin said the election process is not perfect and that mistakes happen. "These are college kids," he said. "They're here to get an education. Voting can be part of that education."

McLaughlin also said the students may have needed help in filling out the ballots and that they may have found that help from the Cougar Party.

"I think what we have here is a group of students who got together early, who got organized early and who won," McLaughlin said.

Moore agreed with McLaughlin, saying, "I ran a hard campaign. I was out from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. talking to students and hearing their complaints on both days. I didn't do anything the complaint named."

Moore did say Cougar Party supporters did violate the 50-foot rule accidentally several times. "Not every location was marked (with a 50-foot marker)," Moore said. "When our workers crossed the lines, we moved back when we were told."

The idea that $93,000 in funds was going to be handled by "a bunch of college kids" was the real problem with SA, Lalor said.

"Patrick Lalor doesn't want his student fee handed out by a bunch of `college kids,' " Lalor said in response to McLaughlin's description of the elections.

Moore said, "I'm a 27-year-old man, not some punk kid."

McLaughlin amended his statement to mean those running the polls were the "college kids," not the Cougar Party, whom he referred to as "very mature and goal-oriented."

Lalor said his main complaint was not with specific members of the Cougar Party, but with the system that elected them.

"The process itself is flawed," Lalor said. "This happened last year, it may have happened in previous years, and all I'm hearing is it may change in the future.

"The new group is already planning next year's elections."

Lalor said it is not fair to allow a group that was elected under shady circumstances to choose how future elections would be run.

When asked specifically what he wanted from the board, Lalor replied, "I want you to order a new election. I want you to maintain strict adherence to campaign rules."

After the board ruled the elections valid, Lalor claimed he had gotten the verdict he wanted.

"Now we can go after the funding," Lalor said. "If this Hearing Board said there were violations in the elections, then we have grounds to complain."

Teresa Wagner, presidential candidate for The Change, said, "If the election is fraudulent, it's misappropriation (to let SA hand out money)."

Lalor and his group plan to take their complaint to the Dean of Students to try to block SA's funding.

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