By Elianna Novitch
Hira Mustafa and Heath Schintler will be inaugurated as the president and vice president of University of Iowa Student Government on Saturday, but the certification of their election was divisive between administrative and student decision-makers.
The winning SURGE ticket was fined $949.33 for spending over its allotted budget of $3,000, campaigning early, falsifying its budget, and failing to report its Molly’s Cupcakes and Z’marik’s promotions. Empower Iowa was also fined for violations of the Election Code.
The decision to fine SURGE for its violations rather than disqualify the ticket came from discussions between the Center for Student Involvement & Leadership and Student Elections Commissioner Johanna Hetherington.
Hetherington said she advocated for disqualification of SURGE on the grounds of fines and the falsified budget. She said she appreciated the guidance of the Student Involvement Center, an administrative department that facilitates student organizations, activities, and services, but did get uncomfortable with the decisions being made.
“There were definitely times during the election period and certification period where I felt uncomfortable in [the center’s] rule, just because I felt like maybe this was getting too far away from the students themselves and maybe things were becoming more of an administration’s decision,” Hetherington said.
The UISG Elections Code states disqualification may be considered if a ticket accumulates more than $1,000 in fines — just $50.67 more than what SURGE accumulated.
The fines come after the Student Judicial Court found the ticket responsible for falsifying its campaign budget and found the party did not report the fair market value of its photographer, Mary Mathis, in accordance with the Elections Code.
“We just want everybody to run a fair campaign and abide by the Election Code because it’s there for a reason,” said Chief Justice of the Student Judicial Court Adelaide Zwick said. “It’s ideally to create great equity among all the tickets.”
Mustafa said she and Schintler are excited to see the certification of the elections and are thankful for everyone’s patience throughout the process.
“While only a week until the official start of our administration, we’ve spent our time diving into transitions to prepare us to lead the student government,” Mustafa said. “Our administration is dedicated to leaving any partisan disputes in the past and leaning in and engaging with all members of UISG and the University of Iowa community to represent and advocate for the undergraduate student body.”
Empower Iowa was fined $100 for a violation of university policy.
“Basically, what that means in effect is it says in the Election Code that you cannot do campaigning in UISG spaces such as Senate sessions,” Empower Iowa presidential candidate Ben Nelson said. “Some of our members who were already in student government forgot to take off their phone cases that had Empower Iowa stickers on the backs.”
Nelson said his party chose not to fight the fines and accepted them.
Hetherington said all the concerns raised regarding this year’s election are valid, and she urged everyone to keep reaching out with their feedback, both positive and negative.
“Now that the election’s over and things have been certified, that doesn’t negate people’s ability to still speak their minds about this,” Hetherington said. “Legislation about election reform is bound to happen, and I think it’s really important for students to give their opinions … because it’s about the students and student voices.”