The JEC hearing: what you need to know

Lande Watson has been disqualified from the SA race.

Watson was found guilty on the following counts:

Rule 657

Count 1 — Forcing candidates not to run: Not in violation

Count 2 — Harassment by campaign agents: In violation

Count 3 — Threatening statements: In violation

Count 4 — Harassment at the Kabin event: Not in violation

Count 5 — Harassment at the RHA office: Not in violation

Count 6 — Harassment in dorm space: Not in violation

Count 7 — Threatening statments: Not in violation

Count 8 — Intimidation by campaign agents in Marvin: In violation

Count 9 — Harassment in Thurston: Not in violation

Rule 652

Count 1 — False statements: In violation

Count 2 — False statements: Not in violation

Three violations of “failure to comply” and one violation of “false statements,” resulted in Lande having received six penalties and official disqualification.

Josh Kirmsse, associated with Lande’s campaign, issued the following statement:

“We’re weighing our options, but it’s hard to decide how we can seek justice in a system that’s so obviously broken.”

The Joint Elections Commission (JEC) held a public hearing to investigate and rule on eleven breaches of campaign and student code that were alleged in the complaints posted to the JEC website. In case you were wondering, this why the SA election was postponed a week. Both candidates, members of their teams, and school officials — such as Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski and Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller — were present.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Lande Watson and her campaign were brought up on eleven counts of violations.

  • Nine of these counts stem from violation of Section 657: Failure to Comply — meaning that there was a breach of the JEC Charter.

  • Two counts are violations brought under Section 659: Authorized Agent Liability — meaning that a candidate is liable for the actions of those authorized to work on their behalf. These charges were brought as a violation of Section 652, which prohibits false statements.

It was the burden of Chief Investigator Hannah Bloom to prove two things:

  • Lande, or someone she had acting on her behalf violated a section of the JEC Charter or other applicable rule.

  • The violation was likely to have a material effect on the election.

These violations have potentially serious consequences.

In the course of a campaign, candidates may receive “penalties” from the JEC for illicit behavior, somewhat analogous to points on a drivers license. If more than half of the JEC finds a candidate in violation, then they are sentenced in accordance with a structure on the JEC website, and assigned the relevant number of penalties. Six or more penalties results in immediate disqualification from the election.

  • Any violation of Section 652 results in three penalties

  • Violations of Section 657 vary, from one penalty to as many as three, based on the rule broken in conjunction with 657.

The charges brought against Lande and her campaign centered on coercion, harassment, and intimidation. The first witness against Lande was Ali Belinkie, who filed five of the complaints.

She was questioned on all complaints she brought up. Some of them related to her own experiences and others were things she had heard, admitting some were “the rumor mill,” leading to varying levels of detail and/or proof on the different charges.

Lande’s representative, Josh Kirmsse, noted in cross examination that many points were solely word-of-mouth, such as Ali alleging Lande’s team pressured two potential candidates to drop out, despite Ali never having talked to either of them. One of them, Keiko Tsuboi, testified, saying that while it was clear to her that Lande’s team was upset she considered running, she never felt intimidated out.

Because there was not physical evidence (texts, phone records, etc.) for all complaints, there was concern that some indictments were based on personal interpretation of tone and attitude rather than concrete evidence of violations.

A big debate was what constitutes being an “authorized agent” of a campaign. Because some people identified in Ali’s complaints had publicly supported Lande, Ali alleged that they were her staff, while Kirmsse argued that some of those named opted to support Lande, but were not official parts of the campaign.

The JEC defined an authorized agent as someone who a candidate “either tacitly or implicitly” gave info and instructions do, with the JEC having the discretion to make that determination.

Unfortunately however, the hearing itself came with its fair share of problems. While the JEC later redacted names from the documents, as the complaints were originally released without redactions, all parties occasionally used a name that was supposed to be removed.

The JEC also failed to anticipate how long proceedings would take. The hearing was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. and by 11:00 p.m. witnesses for Cole were still being questioned; Lande’s campaign followed with their own, who were questioned until after 3:30 a.m. — a full ten hours after the hearing began.

Some witnesses were allowed to stay in the room while other witnesses were questioned, which cast doubts on the integrity of the testimonies given. Witnesses could potentially base or restructure their testimony based on what they heard other people claim.

While the hearing was technically “public,” the JEC did not publicize it, citing a “respect for privacy.” Everyone present was also told that while the meeting was public, audio, or visual recording was prohibited and university police would be called if someone was found to be doing so.

We at The Rival are committed to bringing you the most comprehensive and continual coverage of the election and the complaint scandal as it unfolds. Stay tuned for updates.

Originally published at gw.therival.news by Reed Westcott, Emily Milakovic, Savannah Shepard, and Courtney Buble on 4.1.17.
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CampusEmily Milakovic