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RNE rules Thursday GM Election Nullified

April 24th, 2010

You’ve got to see this for yourself.  RNE has nullified the latest GM election due to a number of violations allegedly committed by candidate Ben Hunt.  You can view the decision here.  Here’s why:

1. Ben Hunt’s Candidate Expense Sheets did not accurately reflect his expenditures. Section IV of theGM Week 2010 Elections Handbook states that “During the process of campaigning, a record of allexpenditures (including items received for free) must be kept along with receipts for all items.” Onthe expense sheet submitted on April 10th 2010, Ben Hunt expensed 15 plots at $5.25 per plot for atotal cost $78.75. The DotCIO printer report shows 30 plots printed between the beginning ofelections and April 9th for a total cost of $210.00.

2. Ben Hunt was found to have spent more money on his campaign that he was allotted. Section IV ofthe GM Week 2010 Handbook states that “No candidate may exceed the following limits: For theoffices of Grand Marshal and President of the Union: $300 is the maximum.” Grand MarshalCandidates were granted an extra 25% toward their spending limits per Decision 10. Ben Hunt wassanctioned 5% of his expenditure limit per Violation 13, 10% of his expenditure limit per Violation17, and 5% of his expenditure limit per Violation 20. His total expenditure limit as of April 22nd was$304.59. An audit of Ben Hunt’s finances performed by the Rules and Elections Committeediscovered expenditures in excess of $426.98. It is know that Ben Hunt has incurred additionalexpenses from plotting beyond this, but due to limits of the DotCIO printing system, thisinformation was unable to be obtained in a timely fashion.

3. Several students campaigning with Ben Hunt were found to have not completed a CandidateAssistant Form. Section V of the GM Week 2010 Elections Hanbook states that “Candidates mayonly be assisted in campaign activities by Activity Fee-paying RPI students. These students mustcomplete a Candidate Assistance Form that is signed by both the candidate and the assistant.” OnApril 22nd, these students were observed either helping prepare and give out food, solicitingpeople for Ben Hunt votes, or yelling out “Vote Ben Hunt for GM”. This violation was reported toBen Hunt around 1pm and eight candidate assistant forms were submitted later in the afternoon.

4. Ben Hunt was seen campaigning with a grill owned by the Rensselaer Union and consumingpropane purchased by the Rensselaer Union. Section IV of the GM Week Elections Handbook statesthat “No candidate or party may be supported by Union funds or supplies.” Ben Hunt laterreplenished the propane using his own finances. The use of the grill was later permitted by RNE andits usage was expensed by Ben Hunt.5. Several Ben Hunt plots were found in the Rensselaer Union on the day of elections. Section XI ofthe GM Week Elections Handbook states that “No campaigning or campaign material is allowed inor on polling site buildings after 10 pm on the days before voting and voting itself.” The plots werefound at approximately 4pm and were found in the East Lobby of the Rensselaer Union.

The final election will be held May 4, and candidates have been allowed an extra $150 to spend until then.  That is… unless there’s another Judicial Board case.

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  1. …really?
    April 24th, 2010 at 07:19 | #1

    This is ridiculous. None of these things affect the outcome. Honestly, students couldn’t care less how much you spent using the plotter or that you were using the Union’s propane. Seriously?

    This committee needs to be re-evaluated or impeached. This is the most corruption I have ever seen at this school in a student-run organization. You should be ashamed of yourselves, RNE.

    And for the record, I voted for Zwack and I’m fairly certain even with all these Ben Hunt violations he still won. Twice. Just let it end. You’re not helping anything.

  2. Bryan H.
    April 24th, 2010 at 07:44 | #2

    My knee-jerk reaction to this, before reading the actual decision, was to think “come on, wtf RNE – this is why changes need to be made.” I have to say, though, that after reading the whole decision (which I hope people do, instead of sticking with that first reaction) that they’re really just doing their job – those are some pretty blatant (and not to mention numerous) violations.

    When you’re running for the highest student-elected office at RPI, you should probably be aware of the rules that have been set down and follow them. Its abundantly apparent at this point, if it wasn’t from last year, that Ben Hunt is not and (apparently) hasn’t done anything at all to rectify his disregard for the rules that govern our elections in the past year.

    Sure, the RNE may a bit hard-assed in trying to make sure that no violation goes unnoticed, but they have to be to ensure that all candidates get a fair and equal chance. I mean, come on – is it really that hard to accurately report facts about your campaign to the elections committee? Is this guy not expecting to do any paperwork or have to manage anything as Grand Marshal because he’s certainly not making the case that he can handle it well.

  3. Paul K
    April 24th, 2010 at 14:52 | #3

    I see this as more in the gray area, but it raises a question: Is the RNE chair an appointed position by the GM?

  4. Mel Diaz
    April 24th, 2010 at 17:30 | #4

    Rules are rules, and they are there for a reason. I think Bryan nailed it on the head here. However, the knee-jerk reactions that most people have right now (post #1) are going to be horribly unfair to Zwack for the next election, not to mention the inevitably low turnout.

    Hunt wrote on his FB after this that he was “a bit over budget”. If it were two dollars, fine. But he was AT LEAST $122.39 over budget, or used 140% of what he was supposed to. I think that alone should DQ him.

  5. Rob
    April 24th, 2010 at 20:58 | #5

    What audit? Don’t they have to link to the expense forms and back up their findings? The RNE keeps digging itself deeper. Also, Zwack’s site doesn’t look too cheap. If the RNE arrived at the over budget thing only with “free” items included, the cost of a website like zwack’s would probably push him over budget as well.

  6. Jay Walker
    April 24th, 2010 at 21:18 | #6

    If we were to have elections now my vote would have been changed by this. Not because of any knee jerk reaction or anything but because I read a part of a platform I had never seen before. Not sure whats going to happen in the next week though so we’ll see.
    It also sucks that Zwack was able to spend so much more although I guess thats how the system works. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t know how important the expense limits were (this is my first election.) Maybe its naive of me but I find it extremely sad that money is so important in this.

    Also rpinsider maybe you should post Hunts reply for reporting reasons.

  7. The Editors
    April 25th, 2010 at 09:28 | #7

    We did some research on this for you, and you can view the answer in the Senate Bylaws:

    The Chair of the Rules and Elections Committee shall be an officer of the Senate.
    a. They shall be nominated by the Grand Marshal and approved by a 2/3 vote of the Student Senate. The chair shall not necessarily be a Senator, but shall regularly attend Senate meetings.

  8. Cara R
    April 25th, 2010 at 10:39 | #8

    @Jay Walker

    With the expenses thing, I think the party system has no place on a college campus. All it does is add more to the belief that everything’s a popularity contest. And the expenditure part is really unfair as well … it’s a David versus Goliath battle.

    @Paul K

    Like The Editors said, it is nominated by the GM and confirmed by the Senate. Now, if I recall, Haris was also RNE Chair last year and all the violations against Hunt were questioned a little last year (though much more extensively for this election cycle). I must admit, however, I think it is very irresponsible of Haris not to have stepped down as RNE Chair when he found out Zwack was running again (when Haris would have been appointed, this would not have been known so I didn’t see a problem with the appointment up until Zwack’s decision to run).

    I’ll be weighting in a lot more in a Letter to the Editor to the Poly this week. Everyone is sick of GM Week/Month and we just need a real vote already (whatever the outcome) before students lose all faith in RNE and Student Government–if that hasn’t already happened, that is.

  9. Andrew A
    April 25th, 2010 at 13:22 | #9

    @Cara R
    Mr. Khan was not the RNE chair during last year’s GM week elections. That position was filled by Mr. Christopher “Cubby” Goldsmith. Haris was, however, RNE chair during freshman elections this past fall.

  10. Bryan H.
    April 25th, 2010 at 16:03 | #10

    There may need to be adjustments made to the way that our elections handle political parties, but I don’t think that it has no place in a college campus. Plus, Hunt had every opportunity available to him that Zwack had. He could have formed a party and had more funds available, but he didn’t. He should have been experienced with the elections rules and procedures just as much as Zwack is – this is the second GM election for both of them. I don’t see why holding the position of GM for a year would confer more complete knowledge of election rules on you since the day-to-day operations have nothing to do with elections.

    However, Hunt’s reply to the decision does have one point about his expenditures that I feel is valid, but my own lack of understanding of elections rules could be the reason. I’m not sure why the RNE’s “audit” would have included all plotter prints (and other printouts?) made when he clearly expensed only a certain portion of those. I’m assuming that, initially, the plotter prints go on Hunt’s Bursar bill and he expenses the amount spent for reimbursement, no? If so, why would the RNE attempt to include more than he actually expensed? Are the candidates prohibited from spending personal funds in excess of the established amounts? I must be missing something here, but it does seem valid that the RNE would have a mostly impossible time of discerning whether printouts would be used for campaigning or other things (maybe there were some misprints, who knows?) just from a DotCIO log.

  11. John W
    April 25th, 2010 at 18:07 | #11

    @ Bryan H

    The plotter issue is a valid one. Let’s just suppose that Hunt was an architecture student or EMAC or something else that plots a lot. Clearly, RNE would have no way of figuring out what was/wasn’t campaign related.

    @ Cara R

    This is true. As Haris is an appointee of the GM, there is a TREMENDOUS conflict of interest afoot here. There has never been a case in which the GM could run for a second term; there is accordingly no precedent. However, Haris should have done the right thing and resigned as soon as Zwack began to publicize his intent to run again.

    Also–let’s not forget about Violation #20… the one about the sign in a Quadrangle window. If the window is tenanted by a member of Hunt’s alliance/party/whatever, all well and good, but if it is tenanted by a random student, the violation should not stand. Things put in windows are subject to the Offices of Student and Residence Life, NOT the piddling little RNE.

    And am I the only one who hates their acronym? Seriously. It’s gotta go. ‘Cookies ‘n’ Cream’ is marginally alright; ‘Rules ‘n’ Elections’ is just plain obnoxious.

  12. Undergrad
    April 25th, 2010 at 19:03 | #12

    So I guess this just means Arthur Galpin won by default.

  13. Al Richard
    April 25th, 2010 at 20:38 | #13

    Sorry Hunt, rules are rules. You broke them. If you disagree with the rules, that does not give you the right to completely ignore them. The RNE ruled what was correct and unbiased: just as they should’ve done. I voted for Zwack. I’m sure even with the violations that Zwack would’ve won. However, ignoring the violations of Hunt completely misses the point of having the RNE in the first place. So instead of piling on the criticism on the RNE, place it where it belongs: on Benjamin Hunt.

    Honestly, his inability to follow simple rules and fill out simple paperwork indicates a lack of the maturity and competence required to hold as high a position as Grand Marshal.

  14. Cara R
    April 25th, 2010 at 22:05 | #14

    @Andrew A

    Ah okay, my bad. Though I didn’t think Cubby was still around then … was it maybe Stanley?

  15. April 26th, 2010 at 10:13 | #15

    @Rob The website was done in-house by a member of the Vector Party. No costs there apart from the hosting fees, which are reported on the expense forms.

  16. Cara R
    April 26th, 2010 at 11:25 | #16

    @Al Richard

    See, but the thing is: I don’t understand why, if Zwack won, they would be doing this. They counted the votes beforehand.

    Either way, with all this ridiculousness, we should have just announced these results and given him some other punishments (pending that the J-Board finds these violations stand).

  17. Jim
    April 26th, 2010 at 14:46 | #17

    Tsk tsk tsk. Like chickens with their heads cut off…

  18. April 26th, 2010 at 18:09 | #18

    I would like to briefly comment on this situation as it is clear that my reputation has been scathed by RNE. From an outside perspective, Decision 12 makes me look like a mindless candidate that wantonly ignores rules. This could not be farther from the truth.

    On election day, 4/22, and through the end of the day at my campaign rally, I had not been violation of any rules as far as I was concerned. RNE’s decision 12 is swiss cheese; all 5 of the “violations” are blatantly false and I have proved them false in my Jboard appeal letter and will prove them false in the Jboard case this week.

    I agree that rules are rules, however I broke no rules here. You all must understand how this all worked. The Vector Party complained to RNE making claims about my campaign, RNE then decided, WITHOUT acquiring my side of the story, a final decision. Of course to make things worse, this all was decided AFTER ballots were counted. Decision 12 has many flaws as it was devoid of due process that would have garnered a fair decision.

    If you have the time, read my Jboard appeal. In 7 pages, I discuss why each of the 5 parts of Decision 12 are false. Decide for yourself, separate from RNE’s jaded decision process and attempt to label me as a miscreant, if I am I in fact broke any rules.


  19. Mike D
    April 26th, 2010 at 19:10 | #19

    @Cara R
    In don’t see why the decision to nullify an election should have nothing to do with who won. The question at hand is whether the election was fair.

    Now, I personally don’t agree with the arguments Ben Hunt has made against the violations in Decision 12. But that’s in the hands of the Judicial board now. In either case, the question isn’t about who would have won the election, or who got more votes. The rules are there to protect the fairness of the poll itself, and if that fairness was in fact violated, it wouldn’t seem to stand to reason that the student body was given a fair chance to choose their representative, whichever direction we would speculate the results would be skewed in. A new election seems to me a logical outcome – punishing the candidate through some judicial means just isn’t the point.

  20. April 26th, 2010 at 21:22 | #20


    Rob :
    … Also, Zwack’s site doesn’t look too cheap. If the RNE arrived at the over budget thing only with “free” items included, the cost of a website like zwack’s would probably push him over budget as well.

    Haha, we’re going to start expensing volunteer hours now?

  21. Elwin
    April 27th, 2010 at 08:33 | #21

    Chris :

    Rob :
    … Also, Zwack’s site doesn’t look too cheap. If the RNE arrived at the over budget thing only with “free” items included, the cost of a website like zwack’s would probably push him over budget as well.

    Haha, we’re going to start expensing volunteer hours now?

    I don’t know if the rule is still on the books, but if people give you campaigning help for free, it doesn’t count as expenses, as long as you offer it to all your rivals too.

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