North Texas Daily

SGA fumbles on allowing potential candidate to run

SGA fumbles on allowing potential candidate to run

April 07
02:56 2016

Lisa Dreher | Staff Writer

@lisa_dreher97

Easton Lachlann wanted to run for Student Government Association vice president, but his own timing combined with internal missteps by SGA officials blocked him from candidacy.

“Protocol wasn’t even followed to begin with,” Lachlann said. “That to me should invalidate a lot of this. I followed everything to the letter, if they’re not going to do the same then what’s the point?”

The SGA College of Public Affairs and Community Service senator intended to run for SGA vice president this election, but he was unsure of his eligibility because he is graduating in May.

Lachlann needs 32 undergraduate hours to qualify for medical school after graduating this semester. He’s a senior now, but will take undergraduate courses after graduating. He did not know if he could be the undergraduate vice president while also being a graduate student.

Lachlann asked Student Financial Aid and Scholarships administrator Tiffany O’Neal, who said he could be classified as both an undergraduate and graduate.

The first wrong turn

Lachlann said UNT director of student activities Christa Coffey told him to ask the SGA Supreme Court for clarification. In an email from March 19, SGA president Adam Alattry also said Lachlann should send his case to the court. This week, however, Alattry said Lachlann should have gone to the Election Board in the first place.

“That was an oversight on Lachlann’s part,” Alattry said.

It took 10 days for Lachlann to get a final ruling from the Election Board on whether he could run for vice president. The deadline to file for vice president was March 22. He began to search SGA March 19 for a ruling on whether he could run.

Lachlann said he did not address his eligibility sooner because of personal conflicts. He was out because he was sick and suffered from hip and joint pain at the beginning of the semester. Additionally, his dad had a stroke over spring break.

“It was a series of unfortunate events,” Lachlann said. “But I certainly wasn’t being lazy.”

The SGA Supreme Court, with a unanimous opinion written by chief justice Maxwell Anderson, gave its ruling March 21. It said the Election Board should make a decision before the court should. As a result, Lachlann’s move to appeal to the court, which Coffey and Alattry advised him to do, “was improper as a matter of procedure.” So the court sent Lachlann’s case to the Election Board, which is what the SGA bylaws say to do in the first place.

“Article V, which lays out the rules on elections, indicates that election ‘regulations are subject to interpretation only by the Election Board,’” the SGA Supreme Court said. “These regulations include ‘questions of candidate eligibility.’”

One of the justices who ruled in the court’s unanimous decision is current SGA presidential candidate John Andrews. The SGA president appoints justices, according to SGA’s Student Constitution.

Lachlann said he lost time because of the unnecessary court hearing.

“That wasted another two days of time I could have spent making sure everything was 100 percent before applying,” Lachlann said.

The SGA Supreme Court deferred ruling on Lachlann’s eligibility to the Election Board, but the SGA Election Commissioner interceded, and with that, Coffey decided he could run.

“Christa and I decided we would allow him to run almost immediately,” Davis said.

The next problem

When the SGA Supreme Court first took up Lachlann’s issue, it also ruled he and whomever his running mate would be could bypass the application deadline because of the misstep.

Lachlann was first going to run as SGA College of Arts and Sciences senator Mia Muric’s vice president. Lachlann and Muric applied under one ticket minutes before applications closed because Davis told them Muric could be eligible if she completed a May-mester.

Muric later found she could not meet 60 hours to be classified as a junior by June 1, a requirement in the SGA bylaws.

Lachlann then asked College of Arts and Sciences senator Miller to run with him after the deadline. Davis said Miller could not run with Lachlann because he said candidates are not allowed to file on two tickets. People who want to change running mates can do so if they meet the filing deadline.

In Lachlann and Miller’s case, Davis said Lachlann could not change running mates because it was after the deadline — even though the SGA Supreme Court ruled the deadline did not apply to Lachlann and whomever he ran with because of the first misstep.

“This is my ruling,” Davis said in an email to Lachlann. “I cannot allow an entirely new ticket to join the election, as it would be unfair to candidates that have been turned down since the close of applications.”

After that, the Election Board upheld Davis’ ruling with a 4-0 vote to deny Miller and Lachlann from running together. The board ruled switching running mates “creates an unfair advantage.”

Because Davis gave an opinion first, Lachlann and Miller argued only the Election Board has power to make rulings “on matters pertaining to elections.”

SGA bylaws state the Election Commissioner can only make interpretations of the Election Code, not make rulings before the board can hear cases.

Davis argued his power to make “interpretations” of the Election Code allowed him to say Lachlann and Miller could not run together.

“When it comes to things like eligibility, I don’t generally have to go to the Election Board because it would be going to the Election Board for 80 candidates,” Davis said.

Coffey said the same-ticket requirement is on the application but not in the Election Code. Davis can only make interpretations on the Election Code and based his interpretation on it, not the application.

Writing the rules

“[The Board’s] consensus seemed to be that there was a lot of protocol not followed,” Lachlann said. “Not by myself, but by the Commissioner and the other members involved.”

Davis and Coffey said Davis wrote the policy and rules, which govern what the SGA election commissioner can and cannot do. Davis said he understands why it would seem unfair, but argues the SGA senators approved of the rules before elections started, so all parties knew the rules before playing.

“Here you have a member appointed by the president of SGA who then was given the power to write his own rules and regulations,” Lachlann said. “[They] basically are the only way you can fight decisions by the Election Board.”

Featured Image: The Student Government Association tied up a senator in procedural red tape preventing pre­medical senior Easton Lachlann from running for vice president. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

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