The Arizona Desert Lamp

The Tyranny of the Elections Code: The Rhonda Tubbs Case

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 15 February 2009

Rhonda TubbsI’ve commented previously on the absurdly ahistorical nature of student government; and, in a never-ending attempt to make the past present, I present to you the case of Rhonda Tubbs.

Few, if any, of the current ASUA members, or those monitoring them, remember Rhonda Tubbs. Ms. Tubbs was a candidate for executive vice president, way back in 2006. By all regards, Ms. Tubbs was a popular ASUA figure among the student body, initiating the current laptop-loan program during her tenure as a Senator. During the primary campaign, Ms. Tubbs won in the EVP category, defeating future Executive Vice President David Reece by a 34.2% to 31.89% margin.

Yet unfortunately for Ms. Tubbs, she happened to be running for an elected office within ASUA — which means that she was subject to the ASUA Elections Code. Ultimately, she was disqualified for the commission of several ‘minor’ campaign violations:

Tubbs, who wasn’t able to campaign because of elections code violations she received Monday, said she was disqualified because a friend posted “Vote Rhonda Tubbs” on an America Online instant messenger profile.

. . .
Tubbs’ campaign violations included not receiving approval to pass out cookies on the UA Mall, sending e-mails through a campus Listserv campaigning for votes and having friends and supporters wear buttons saying “Vote Tubbs” during an ASUA senate meeting, all of which Tubbs said she was never aware of.

So, verboten activities when campaigning for student government include: passing out cookies, using listservs, wearing political buttons, and expressing opinions on AOL Instant Messenger. In past comments, there have been sentiments that previous election codes were “ineffective.” I’m more concerned about the fact that the Elections Commission has the temerity to claim authority over AOL Instant Messenger. I realize that I’m beginning to sound a little bit like this guy (NSFW), but I remain convinced that attempting to control literally every aspect of a campaign is a flawed and frankly despotic policy.

You see this pattern time and time again in ASUA elections of the past — elections results are immediately met with cries of Elections Code violations, which may or may not disqualify the most popular candidates in favor of the candidates who have chosen to memorize the Elections Code rather than discuss issues with students. “When you can’t beat them, disqualify them” appears to be the motto of many an ASUA candidate.

It was refreshing, anyways, to see this line in the wake of the disqualification:

While Tubbs said elections commissioners are following protocol related to their job, she said the elections code is too strict for its own good, doesn’t enable candidates to campaign properly and punishes individuals who may not be aware they’re committing an offense.

Unfortunately, Ms. Tubbs wasn’t fighting against the Elections Code when she had to as a chance as a Senator. Of course this makes sense — if you manage to avoid getting disqualified by the Elections Commission, you have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Elections become less about endearing yourself to the interests of the student body, and more about jumping through the hoops and ladders set by whomever the Elections Commissioner happens to be at the time. (As a clarifying note to a previous post, I only have an animus against Mr. Ho insofar as he abets the current elections system.)

How such an administrative arm of ASUA managed to aggrandize so much power, I hope to be able to explain in the coming months. Yet effectively subjugating the will of the power and the officials that they elect to appointed officials is a bizarre anachronism; hopefully, it is one that will be rolled back in the coming years.

It’s amazing that a citizen of a representative republic can make read these statements without any sense of disbelief:

“There’s a relief this is all over with,” said Miller, a marketing senior. “I’m happy there is a resolution. The court made their decision based on the fact that the code isn’t to be ignored.”

. . .

“Not checking any name is a vote of no confidence,” Birnbaum said. “Students still have a choice for executive vice president.”

Indeed — and the voters in Syria, Eritrea, Cuba, China, Vietnam, Laos, and North Korea also participate in free elections. After all, they do have a choice; they could not check the name of the only contesting party. Silly freedom advocates, competitive elections are for kids! Even Zimbabwe’s election commission refrained from disqualifying Morgan Tsvangirai — yet ASUA’s Election Commission was not so liberty-minded.

By way of a postscript, there”s a tendency in the current Bruce administration to place all sin at the feet of David Reece, a tendency that can be easily traced back to the spring of 2006. Yet somehow, these officials have forgotten that it is the very repressive election code that they currently endorse that led to Mr. Reece’s rise in power. Without the absurd regulations on AIM, on illicit cookie distribution, and on sartorial manners, there’s a very good possibility that Mr. Reece would have never been elected in the first place. Yet the short-term mentality of student officials allows them to forget these not-so-distant events in favor of maintaining a system simply for its own sake, without considering its dearth of merits.


8 Responses

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  1. Dave said, on 16 February 2009 at 12:20 am

    I’ve always contemplated whether or not I could bring down an entire election by illegally campaigning for all of the candidates.

    Also, was Tubbs the one that Cade said had a nice rack, or the one he told to “masturbate” him?

  2. […] was an interesting discovery — when this site made it three days ago: I’ve commented previously on the absurdly ahistorical nature of student government; and, in a […]

  3. The Arizona Desert Lamp said, on 18 February 2009 at 10:52 am

    […] among this year’s student government officials (topics that Evan was on top of three, four, and seventy-six days ago, respectively). But a letter published pages later makes me wonder if […]

  4. […] it was “common sense” when Ms. Tubbs was docked for her unlicensed cookie distribution and an unauthorized Instant Message status — how dare […]

  5. […] electioneering on the part of interested gamblers. But it’s not like we’re dealing with free elections anyways; we might as well have a little fun in the […]

  6. […] This year, of course, the Elections Commission is helping; and so, while the memory of Rhonda Tubbs, who was punished after her supporters wore campaign paraphernalia to an ASUA Senate meeting, is […]

  7. […] rest includes another recap of the Tubbsgate travesty, and the assertion that ASUA is rapidly losing “any right to be taken […]

  8. […] don’t say? What kind of issues might those be? ASU political science professor Valerie Hoekstra, who has […]

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