MSA presidential

by Rebecca Czaplewski

Online campaigning and voting have been credited for more than just increasing voter turnout in the Minnesota Student Association presidential elections — they are also behind the investigation of a complaint from last month’s elections.
The complaint, brought up against newly elected MSA President Ben Bowman and Vice President Matt Clark, states the two violated election and University rules when their campaign sent out mass e-mails to University students.
It was filed by Brett Rowlett and Irene Kao, who finished second behind Bowman and Clark in the April 28 and 29 elections.
The complaint states that a mass mailing is against University election policy because listservs and other forms of mass mailing are only available to University departments, campus organizations and classes. The Rowlett-Kao ticket brought up the complaint to see if Bowman and Clark obtained the names improperly.
Rowlett stated in his complaint that about 60 percent of University undergraduate students received the mailing.
Chuck Dahl, assistant director of the Office of Conduct Code and Policy, wouldn’t comment on the progress of the investigation because of confidentiality rules. Dahl conducts the investigation and turns his findings over to the University Judicial Board.
Possible punishments could range from losing the presidential spot to expulsion from the University if they find it to be a serious violation, Rowlett said.
Bowman said he has filed a response to the complaint and maintains his campaign followed the rules.
He said a campaign member looked up common last names in the University’s online directory. They then sent out the messages on a non-University server and e-mail address, which Bowman said was not in violation of the All-Campus Election Commission rules.
Two mailings were sent out, one on each election day, reminding students about the elections and how to vote online. Both mailings also featured the Web page address of Bowman’s campaign, and one lists five of their major issues.
Although he doesn’t know the number of e-mails sent out over the two days before the election, Bowman said he was shooting for a creative use of resources to increase overall voter turnout — not just for his campaign.
“We didn’t just go into Popmail and send them out,” Bowman said. “We also got a lot of e-mail back saying that (students) voted for the other candidates.”
Rowlett said his main concern in filing the complaint was to find out how Bowman’s campaign got access to the names and e-mail addresses of students.
“We want to know if it happened properly or if it was a violation of rules,” Rowlett said.
Rowlett added it was an unfair tactic to use because no other candidates would have had access to the technology Bowman used.
“Our campaign played by the rules and was as fair as possible. It doesn’t appear that Ben’s side did the same,” Rowlett said.
“It’s frustrating not to have closure,” Bowman said. “If it gets done by the end of the summer, I’ll be thrilled.”