The Associated Student Body Senate unanimously passed a bill Tuesday night meant to enforce new campaign rules that some Senators view as a response to the role Greek organizations have played in past elections. Earlier that same day, Attorney General Austin Fiala released a statement in support of the ASB’s decision to delay the introduction of a homecoming king until the 2019 homecoming elections.
This most recent campaign reform bill aims to curb attempts by candidates, campaign representatives or organizations to “coerce, bribe, incentivize, intimidate or force a person to vote or campaign for a specific candidate.” Violations will result in a major campaign violation for the candidate.
The bill comes after former Attorney General Katherine Sistrunk’s resignation and decision to lead an Election Reforms Task Force. She said Greek organizations “provide certain advantages to their members running in student elections that non-Greek affiliated candidates are not afforded.”
“This bill seeks to combat unethical behavior we have seen and heard of on the behalf of candidates and their supporters in recent elections,” Sen. Charlotte Shackelford, one of the bill’s authors, said.
Sen. Barron Mayfield vocalized his concerns regarding the bill’s enforceability and played a key role in amending the bill to the version that was passed.
“Let’s get around the elephant in the room and say that this is pretty much a reaction to the point system used by sororities,” Mayfield said.
The “point system” is a system used by sororities to incentivize chapter members to vote for their own members running in ASB elections. Sororities often award or penalize members by threatening their entrance to parties or revoking other privileges.
Mayfield also clarified that though Greek organizations may reward points to members for voting, they may not reward points for voting for specific candidates.
“This is not a specific attack on the Greek community,” Shackelford said. “ASB does not oversee what specific chapters or organizations on this campus choose to do and cannot do. However, ASB does oversee election rules that a candidate, Greek or non-Greek, must follow.”
“The Attorney General in the past has done nothing to make sure that we hold these people running for office and organizations accountable for what they’re doing, so they’ve pretty much been running unchecked,” Sen. Nick Weaver said.
Sens. Shackelford and Weaver agreed that this bill will provide the Attorney General and the Elections Commission with more consistent and clear language off of which to base their decisions.
Sen. Abby Johnston is a member of the Greek community herself and demonstrated her full support for these campaigning rules. “This bill is not anti-Greek,” she said.
“The intent is also to legitimize our positions,” Johnston said. “It’s saying that you can run for these positions regardless of organizations that are backing you.”
ASB also made another campaign announcement Tuesday, when newly appointed Attorney General Austin Fiala released a statement explaining the decision that there will not be an election for Homecoming King in the upcoming fall elections.
“We believe that a Homecoming King election this fall would create an unequal playing field, as members of the student body and hopeful candidates, alike, would be required to operate on a shortened timeline,” the statement read.
The announcement came just days after the Senate overturned former ASB President Dion Kevin’s veto of a bill to instate a Homecoming King election.
“By holding the inaugural election of a Homecoming King in the fall of 2019, all eligible students will have an equal amount of time to consider running, to prepare a campaign team and to garner a support network for their candidacies in the time leading up to campaign season,” Fiala’s statement read.
As several Senators stated and Fiala’s statement reiterated, the goal of ASB is to serve and represent the entire student body, and a large part of that is fostering fair elections.