The UT Judicial Court unanimously overturned the decision of the Election Supervisory Board (ESB) in the Helgren-Kim v. Chase case, ruling that Helgren-Kim executive alliance campaign did not violate the election code.
The ESB ruled last Thursday that Helgren-Kim executive alliance team violated the election code by campaigning before the official start date on Feb. 17 at 12:01 a.m. Alexander Chase, an associate editor at The Daily Texan, brought forth a complaint stating he received a Facebook message from a Helgren-Kim campaign agent asking for “support,” which Chase said he thought they meant endorsement.
UT Judicial Court Chief Justice Zachary Stone said the Supreme Court overturned the ESB’s ruling based on an increased amount of information.
“We had more information than the ESB did,” Stone said. “We had more evidence and more time to scrutinize that evidence. ESB is on a shorter timeline than we are.”
According to the student government election code, campaign teams can recruit individual members of the student body to be part of their campaign team before the official campaign start date but cannot directly campaign by soliciting or asking for votes.
Stone said the evidence presented made it clear that Helgren-Kim campaign was looking for workers.
“It came down to what support meant, and we were able to get more information about the word ‘support,’” Stone said.
According to te Supreme Court verdict, ESB’s ruling determined that the word “support” can imply solicitation. The Supreme Court decided there is no proof that Helgren-Kim’s use of the word “support” in the original message and emails should have been read as “vote” or “endorsement.”
Stone said the original Facebook message Chase received from Helgren-Kim campaign agent Adit Bior was a request for Chase’s email address in order to send an email providing more information about the campaign’s goals.
“Helgren sent me a copy of what that follow-up email for interested students looks like,” Stone said. “The email informed us that they were clearly looking to recruit workers. The email was so clear on ways that people could actively work for their campaign. It listed specific jobs and duties. It left no doubt in our minds that it was a solicitation for employment.”
Kevin Helgren, student body president candidate and neuroscience senior, said he is happy with the decision.
“Binna [Kim] and I have been committed to running a clean, issue-focused campaign since day one,” Helgren said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to continue running that campaign.”
Chase, a Plan II junior, said he agrees with the Supreme Court’s conclusion after the appeal hearing.
“I feel Kevin and Binna showed quite well that their intentions were in the right place,” Chase said. “More than anything, I feel this hearing showed how circular the logic of the election code is. Kevin and Binna were undoubtedly following the rules, but a better election code would be more clear and prevent a case like this from ever happening.”
Chase said both parties were able to bring forward pieces of the election code that contradicted each other.
“[The SG election code] is an almost entirely inaccessible document, and if we want any student to feel comfortable running for elected office, we need an election code accessible to everyone,” Chase said.