Candidate sets off controversy in CC rep voting

The Elections Supervisory Committee (ESC) recently denied a request to exclude the statements of write-in candidates for the position of Minority Coalition (MinCo) representative from the candidate statements’ packet distributed to the student body. Nate Winstanley ’04, a candidate for the position who brought the request, said the ESC’s inclusion of the write-in candidates’ statements in the packet legitimizes an act of discrimination, which gave rise to these write-in candidacies.

Winstanley along with Carlos Ramirez ’06 and Gerry Lindo ’04 originally submitted self-nominations for the positions of MinCo representatives to College Council (CC). However, Lindo withdrew his candidacy for MinCo representative in order to run for the position of all-campus representative. Thus, Winstanley (who is also running for class of 2004 representative) and Ramirez were left running for the two positions unopposed.

After he withdrew his candidacy, Lindo sent an e-mail to the MinCo listserver in which he said, “I was running [for the position of MinCo representative], but I have withdrawn to run for all-campus instead. However, with me gone, only two people are running for two positions, only one of whom is a minority.” He further encouraged others on the listserver to pursue a write-in campaign if they cared about representing the minority voice in CC.

At the time, Lindo was unaware that Winstanley is gay. The Queer Students Union (QSU) is one of the groups recognized as part of MinCo.

In response to Lindo’s e-mail, three students – Daniel Gura ’06, Eze Redwood ’06 and Catherine Mercado ’06 – petitioned the ESC to be allowed to run for the MinCo representative positions. Because they had missed the self-nomination deadline for regular candidates by several days, the ESC decided to acknowledge them as write-in candidates.

Even though Gura, Redwood and Mercado had missed the original self-nomination deadline, they did submit their nominations before the publication of the candidate statement packet. As a result, the ESC decided to include the statements of the write-in candidates in this packet.

According to Anna Kretchmer ’06, chair of the ESC, the decision to include them was within CC bylaws.

“Regarding the inclusion of the write-in candidates in the packet, the ESC firmly believes that this does not run contrary to the spirit of the election process simply because a write-in candidate is one who is not on the actual ballot. The publishing of the write-in statements in the nomination packet simply acknowledges the fact that there are additional people seeking election,” Kretchmer said. “The purpose of the nomination packet is to provide the student body with information about the candidates who are running.”

She said the bylaws require write-in candidates to be considered valid candidates and the bylaw regarding the nomination packet did not restrict who can be included.

Nikhar Gaikwad ’06, another member of the ESC, said “a clear distinction was made in the candidate statement packet between regular and write-in candidates.”

On the contrary, Winstanley said the inclusion of the write-in candidates’ statements in the candidate statement packet had no legal basis according to CC bylaws. “The CC bylaws are clear on this issue,” he said. “It is the ESC’s job to ‘publish the nomination packet and ensure that it is distributed at least three days before the first day of elections.’ And these ‘nominations’ must be ‘solicited. . . At least three weeks before the first day of elections.’”

Winstanley further said the ESC used the bylaw “If a write-in candidacy occurs, he/she/they shall be considered as a valid candidate and shall be treated as such” in a misleading context. “As of now,” he said, “none of the people published on the nominations packet have been written in on JOSE, and they can not be written in until the voting starts, and therefore have absolutely no status as CC candidates. Then can not be recognized candidates until the voting starts.”

By including the write-in candidates’ statements in the statement packet and legitimizing their candidacies, Winstanley said, the ESC affirms the discrimination which gave rise to these candidacies.

“My personal problem is that in allowing several people into the nominations packet against procedure,” Winstanley said, “the ESC has legitimized what I see as an act of discrimination against me because I am a white male, and do not necessarily fit into the ‘visual stereotype’ of a campus minority.”

According to the CC Constitution, any student can serve as the MinCo representative as long as he or she “[represents], when needed, the interests of the Minority Coalition organizations” and has a sufficient knowledge of “issues relevant to minority students and issues related to diversity and community.”

In an effort to combat this discrimination, Winstanley petitioned the ESC to print a second round of candidate statement packets without the inclusion of the write-in candidate statements.

In response to Winstanley’s request, Gaikwad commented, “The ESC denied [his] petition to exclude the three write-in candidates from the statement packets that were distributed to the entire campus. This was based on the prerogative that write-in candidates are excluded from JOSE, the online voting system, a considerable disadvantage to them”

Gaikwad responded to Winstanley’s claim of discrimination by explaining that Lindo sent the e-mail to the MinCo listserver after withdrawing his candidacy, and the ESC therefore no longer had jurisdiction over him.

Furthermore, Gaikwad said, “CC bylaws state that there has to be an act of ‘deliberate misinformation’ in order for the ESC to declare a violation. There was absolutely no evidence offered to the ESC that the misinformation was deliberately generated. In fact, Lindo has claimed that it was a mistake, and he did not know of Winstanley’s status as a minority student.” Gaikwad also said that corrective procedures for discrimination are not within the ESC’s jurisdiction.

Some students feel that the ESC’s decision to include the statements of the write-in candidates in the statement packet is a positive step, especially in a race where the candidates were running unopposed.

Ramirez, who submitted his nomination for the position on time and whose name will appear on the ballot, said “I have absolutely no problem with the write-in candidates, I think that it was actually a good idea that there are more, so we can truly have a race . . .With the inclusion of the self-nominations of the write-in candidates the campus has a tougher decision to make. This is not necessarily bad, though.”

He said the decision will benefit everyone in the end as the winners will be more accountable to the student body.