Alexander Jones

Former presidential candidate Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara said they may file a lawsuit against UT as a last resort to get back on the campus-wide elections ballot.

They claim the Election Code rules the Election Supervisory Board and Student Government Judicial Court used to disqualify them violated their constitutional rights.

Campaign manager Alexander Jones said Gardner and Guevara will explore various plans of action within the Office of the Dean of Students and other entities this week before the elections to try and get Gardner and Guevara back on the ballot. The Judicial Court denied Gardner and Guevara’s second appeal of the Election Supervisory Board’s disqualification Sunday and issued a separate disqualification punishment to signify their agreement with the Board’s decision. The Board disqualified the Gardner campaign on Feb. 22 for associating itself with Student Events Center presidential candidate Carissa Kelley via promotional materials for their campaign.

Jones said they may file a case with the Travis County Court because the Election Code provision banning any association between candidates violates their first amendment right to associate with anyone they choose. He said Travis County has intervened in SG elections in the past, citing the 1997 case of vice presidential candidate Marc Levin. Levin took the charges up with Travis County and the judge ordered UT to postpone the elections and after review put Levin back on the ballot.

Jones also said in the 2008 changes to the Election Code there was specific language that classified an association between candidates as any official campaign title, banner or acronym to classify two or more candidates to run as a “ticket.” SG ratified the Election Code in 2008 to ban the ticket system, in which candidates could endorse one another and run together under one name.

“We believe that there needs to be a review of the decision and that precedent needs to be followed,” Jones said. “Based on the precedents, there is no reason they should have ever been disqualified.”

Jones said the Gardner campaign understood it could not associate with other SG candidates, but Kelley is a candidate for a position with University Unions. He said that was never made clear to them in any meeting with SG officials or the Board. He said the campaign did have the right to appeal because the Board did not interpret the Election Code as the original authors intended.

Rachel Meyerson, former College of Liberal Arts representative and educational psychology graduate student, co-authored the legislation defining candidate associations in 2008 and said she felt Gardner and Guevara did have the right to appeal and the Election Code was not interpreted as they originally intended.

“Our intent was to make sure candidates were not running under one large banner,” she said. “[Madison and Antonio] were not running under one large banner. I am confused as to why the Board would disqualify them because it does not seem to be in violation of what we wrote.”

In their second appeal to the court, the Gardner campaign affirmed chair Eric Nimmer allegedly consulted with College of Liberal Arts representative Philip Wiseman on the Board’s decision. They also claimed the Board failed to maintain objectivity because of Nimmer’s personal bias and that he has an improper influence on the Board because he helped author the current Election Code and serves on the Board as well as the Judicial Court.

The Gardner campaign submitted audio evidence of Nimmer talking to Wiseman and discussing the decision after it had been made. When Wiseman asked if there was going to be any more disqualifications, Nimmer said, “Well, let someone piss me off.”

Nimmer did not deny that he said that, but said it was taken out of context. He said he never spoke to Wiseman or anyone before the decision was made and gave the Board official opinion to people who asked for it afterwards because it was public information.

“The idea of me being out to get people and me having the power to do so is completely comical,” Nimmer said. “I am on the record as not wanting to disqualify people because I want students to be able to vote.”

Nimmer said he still believes the board’s ruling is sound.

Printed on Monday, February 27, 2012 as: Campaign may file lawsuit, cites first amendment

Student government candidates Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara listen to Thor Lund and Wills Brown speak at Monday nightÂ’s debate. The Gardner campaign appealed to have its disqualification overturned, but the SG Judicial Court chose not to hear their appeal.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara will be unable to reenter the Student Government presidential and vice presidential race after the SG Judicial Court declined to hear their appeal of the Election Supervisory Board’s disqualification.

The Election Supervisory Board disqualified Gardner and Guevara on Wednesday for including Student Events Center presidential candidate Carissa Kelley in their promotional materials, which include pictures, fliers and media on their website. Gardner and Guevara appealed the decision Thursday night and claimed Kelley told them she had no intention of running when the media was produced on Jan. 21. With Gardner’s disqualification, along with the disqualification of Yaman Desai and the withdrawal of Ryan Shingledecker, John Lawler and Thor Lund are the only remaining candidates in the SG presidential race.

Students had until Feb. 12 to sign up to run in the campus-wide elections and could begin campaigning Feb. 15.

Alexander Jones, Gardner and Guevara’s campaign manager, defended the campaign on Wednesday and said the complaint filed did not have genuine intentions, according to the board’s minutes. Jones also said the board had approved the campaign materials before they were distributed, so the Gardner campaign had no reason to believe they were problematic. Jasmine Kyles, who supported former candidates Yaman Desai and Whitney Langston, submitted the complaint on Tuesday.

“Since the disqualification, all the Yaman and Whitney media [produced] under Kyles has remained up online,” Jones said, according to the minutes. “This is evidence of her continued loyalty and support of said campaign.”

Jones said Desai and Langston continue to publicly oppose the Gardner and Guevara campaign. He said although Gardner and Guevara knew about the violation beforehand, it would have been difficult to completely rectify the damage or remove the materials.

“We believe that this complaint is an attack intended to hurt our campaign, not to ensure universal campaigning fairness,” Jones said. “We admit that it was a mistake that Kelley is included in our media.”

In a statement, Gardner said the campaign believes the board made the wrong decision and will continue to pursue its goals for the student body.

“We believe that the ESB was self-evidently incorrect in their decision,” he said in the statement. “Our team is not satisfied but are so very proud of our effort. We will continue our campaign to Unite Texas.”

Kyles said she had removed herself from the Desai and Langston campaign and she filed the complaint because she found it to be a violation of the code.

Kelley said she does not endorse Gardner and Guevara publicly and she had no intent to run at the time of the photos. She said she participated as a friend and the alleged violation was not deliberate.

Under the Election Code, only the presidential and vice presidential candidates may campaign together and any association between candidates of any kind will not be tolerated and can result in immediate disqualification.

The board stated the complaint had been filed in a reasonable amount of time to justify disqualification. It also said Gardner and Guevara have been in violation since they began campaigning on Feb. 15 and have made no known effort to remove or distort Kelley’s presence in their media.

Board chair Eric Nimmer said he was not surprised the SG Judicial Court had chosen not to grant Gardner and Guevara the appeal because the board had already gone through the disqualification procedures correctly. The Judicial Court can only act in situations when the board acts improperly. They have no authority to reverse decisions or alter sentences based on the content of a case.

“Everything [we] did I deemed as reasonable,” Nimmer said. “You do not have grounds for appeal unless there was a procedural error.”

Lawler said it was unfortunate that the race had to come down to this point and offered sympathy for those who participated in the Gardner and Guevara campaign. Lawler said he feels the disqualification will have a negative impact on voter turnout and SG’s image for next year.

“It’s unfortunate SG had to face these scandals yet another year,” he said. “But we encourage student voters to look past the scandals of today and look forward to what the two remaining campaigns will offer tomorrow.”

Lund said the disqualification was unfortunate but he will continue to move forward with his campaign. Lund said he offered his best to Gardner and Guevara.

Printed on Friday, February 24, 2012 as: Court denies Gardner, Guevara appeal