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The Daily Wildcat

 

ASUA Court approves social media endorsements

The ASUA Supreme Court ruled last week that ASUA elected officials can endorse candidates through social media, ending a dispute between the senate and the elections commissioner.

The case, ASUA Senate v. Election Commissioner Small, held oral arguments on March 3. Associated Students of the University of Arizona Sen. Michael Mazzella, a communication junior, represented the senate against Marc Small, ASUA elections commissioner and a political science senior. The case was brought to the Supreme Court in response to Small’s interpretation of Elections Code 5-3.11. The code, which had previously prevented ASUA elected officials from endorsing candidates, was changed by the senate in November, according to Mazzella.

The code was changed to allow elected officials to endorse candidates, Mazzella said, but officials are required to attend Q&A sessions for the candidates so they are able to make an informed decision. They are also not able to use their title when endorsing candidates.

Small interpreted this as meaning officials would be unable to use any social media platforms that presented their title for endorsement of candidates.

“It was just two conflicting things, so I thought the first one would outweigh the second one,” Small said.

Small said he was against allowing elected officials to endorse candidates at all, but the senate decided to go ahead and make the change. According to Mazzella, Small was invited to attend the meetings where the changes to the code were being discussed, but he declined. Mazzella said
Small did not say anything in regards to the change in the code until two weeks ago, when he issued a memo warning elected officials that they were not allowed to use social media to endorse any candidates.

“The way that we saw it was an attempt by [Small] to kind of go over the senate’s head and make up his own rules,” Mazzella said.

Mazzella said the job of the elections commissioner is to enforce the rules that the senate creates. Small, however, considered his role to include interpreting these rules.

Mazzella said the senate was also confused because Small had waited so long after the code was changed to offer his interpretation of it.

“It was kind of strange that all of a sudden, out of nowhere, [Small] decided that he wanted to change the code,” Mazzella said.

According to Mazzella, the changes that had been made to the code made no mention of social media, so Small had no right to interpret the code in that way. After discussing it with Small without reaching a conclusion, Mazzella said he decided to take it to the ASUA Supreme Court. The senate and the elections commissioner were each issued a law student to act as their lawyers during the argument.

Two days after the argument took place, the Supreme Court issued a decision stating that it was invalidating Small’s memo and ruling in favor of the senate.

“[The Supreme Court] gave [elected officials] the right to endorse on social media,” Small said. “It didn’t matter if it had their title or anything. It kind of conflicts in my opinion, but there’s nothing I can do about that.”

Mazzella said the decision also set the precedent for potential future arguments, because the Supreme Court ruled that any disputes between what the senate passes and how the elections commissioner interprets it would be decided in favor of the senate.

“All of the senate came together on this,” Mazzella said. “We really solidified that the things that we decide in our meetings, the things that we vote on, the reasons why we were elected really do matter.”

Morgan Abraham, ASUA president and an engineering management senior, said he understood Small’s interpretation of the code and did not plan on using social media himself to endorse any candidates, but he was not opposed to the decision made by the Supreme Court.

“I completely support the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Abraham said. “That’s why we have a Supreme Court, to make the final say.”

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