MSA evaluates election policy after complaints

Chad Hamblin

Last year’s Minnesota Student Association presidential election drew more than 3,000 voters and its fair share of controversy.

MSA President Tom Zearley said Wednesday that he wants to keep students on the All-Campus Elections Commission from accessing voting results midrace and leaking them to candidates, something competitors accused his campaign of last year.

At least two complaints were filed against Zearley and Vice President Amy Pierce’s 2004 campaign, accusing them of using leaked or fabricated election results to get others to drop out.

Zearley said he did not authorize his staff to use leaked results to further his campaign.

Forum member Betsy Raguse – who ran for vice president last year under presidential candidate Thomas Rupp – said Zearley-Pierce’s campaign manager Aaron Solem told her their campaign was in fourth place. Solem also told them to drop out and support Zearley-Pierce if they wanted to “save MSA,” she said.

“I was curious how they found out,” she said.

Solem admitted to using fabricated election results he garnered from looking at hits from the voting Web site. He said he used the information to help motivate Zearley and Pierce to work harder on their campaign.

Zearley said MSA will probably not try to stop candidates from using fabricated election results to influence future campaigns. Changing policies might not correspond with state campaign laws, he said.

Dan Nelson, a member of last year’s elections commission, admitted to leaking results midrace to the last place MSA presidential candidate, Bob Gindorff. Last year’s MSA Vice President Jeff Nath admitted to saying the election was close but denied giving out any specific results.

Both Nelson and Nath were members of MSA while serving on the commission.

Last year, few people signed up to be on the elections commission, and the two MSA members volunteered to apply, Zearley said.

This year, the MSA executive board is discussing whether MSA Forum members should be allowed on the commission, he said.

Tony Diggs, assistant director of the Student Activities Office, said the election commission’s applications are usually not available until November. This year, he said, they are starting the process earlier to have more time to train and support commissioners.

“We’re doing everything we can do to make the elections better than last year,” he said. “We want the success to continue.”

MSA executive board member Shaun Laden said he disagreed that the commission was a success last year.

“The (elections commission) really failed to do just about everything they were supposed to do last year,” he said.

The elections commission is responsible for handling some campus elections and investigating complaints, among other duties.

Applications to become commissioners became available Sept. 20. They are due Oct. 11.g