Court rules for Elections Board

Melhor Leonor/Asst. News Director

Following the filling of a writ of certiorari by the Coalition of Students for Reform, the FIU Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Student Government Council at Modesto Maidique Campus Elections Board and their restrictions on campaigning material.

William-Jose Velez Gonzalez, president of the CSR, petitioning for legal review of a decision by the board to limit the content of promotional material, filed a writ of certiorari.

In an email sent to the MMC election candidates, the Board stated that, “As a board we have decided that each promotional material can only represent one seat per person. The only time two people can be advertised on a promotional material is for the president and vice president seat.”

The Court heard the case on March 9, with Velez representing CSR and Barbara Ruiz and Alex Favela, along with SGC-MMC Advisor Jose Toscano representing the Elections Board.

According to the writ of certiorari submitted by Velez, this violates individual rights to freedom of expression and ability to endorse other candidates.

Velez cited the 2010 case Mujica v Elections Board, where the court ruled that “that by restricting a candidate’s endorsement of any other candidates… the board’s supplemental guidelines prohibits a student’s innate ability to voice his/her opinions as granted by the first amendment,” deeming the current restriction in violation of the precedent set in this case.

The Elections Board countered these arguments stating that they do not prohibit candidates from verbally endorsing other candidates.

The Board also added that they did not create new regulation but are enforcing existing statues, citing SGC-MMC Elections Code section 6.06 that deals with Campaign Finance, and added that this separation “makes it easier to track donations.”

The respondent also argued that having multiple candidates on the same promotional material could confuse voters.

“We do not want to confuse the public,” Toscano said. “We don’t want to mislead the public. We are not misleading the public to think they have to vote for the two or three people on a flyer. It’s very misleading.”

The respondent further mentioned that as a political party, candidates can endorse each other in promotional material, but explained that candidates must be registered with the Council.

On March 9, Chief Justice Mella delivered the opinion of the Court, which sided with the Elections Board and their restrictions.

The opinion cited Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Virginia and stated that the restrictions on speech are content neutral, narrowly tailored, serve a significant governmental interest, leave open ample alternative channels for communication, as per the United States Supreme Court’s time, place and manner analysis.

In a press release, the CSR stated their opposition to the ruling.

“We find the decision of the Elections Board to be of a restrictive nature, that stifles the democratic nature of the elections, devised on ill informed advising that does not contribute towards a free, more open and transparent student government,” said Velez.

According to Velez, the only way around the ruling would be to amend the Elections Code.

He also added the CSR is seeking to be recognized as a political party but are still waiting to hear from the SGC on the set process.

Among the candidates to be endorsed by the CSR are Samir Patel and Andres Wu running for the president and vice president seats, and Boris Aparicio running for Senator At-Large.

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