The IU Student Association’s election code is unconstitutional. Not just the school’s constitution. Not just the state’s constitution. It’s unconstitutional with a big capital C. Against the George Washington-James Madison-United States kind of Constitution unconstitutional.
But first, a quick reminder: today and tomorrow are our student government’s election days. If historic numbers hold up that means fewer than one of five students will get on their laptops, fight through the exhausting battle of two-factor authentication and cast their votes for the next student body president.
Good job, team, we’re really on the whole civic duty grind right now.
On the other hand, the lack of interest might have something to do with uninspiring performance by past student governments. It could also be due to a farcical student Supreme Court that decides our election results based on tickets accusing each other of violating an incoherent election code.
No one really knows.
In the past, tickets have challenged each other based on specific rules in the election code — who overspent on what, who tabled where they weren’t supposed to table. Petty as they are, these complaints can cause the Supreme Court to change vote totals and election outcomes like they did in 2015 when the INTouch ticket was given the victory over AMPLIFY, which was disqualified.
A winning ticket could secure its election victory by challenging the election code on constitutional grounds and prevent the Supreme Court from attempting yet another judicial coup based on dubious vote deductions for campaign violations.
This approach would have the benefit of starting more entertaining Facebook fights for those of us at home and fixing our election code for future students. Win-win to be honest.
IU is publicly funded and operated. That means First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, press and assembly are guaranteed to students on campus.
These freedoms were expressly extended to public universities decades ago in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Healy v. James (1972), where the Court noted campus speech merited special protection.
The state constitution and the IU student handbook guarantee freedom of speech. IU’s student code even goes as far to promise First Amendment protections for all students.
IU’s election code breaks this promise. Tickets are limited to well beyond reasonable “time and manner” restrictions, like not being allowed to blast a loudspeaker in the dorms at 3 a.m.
There are rules regulating free speech zones, when campaigning is allowed and who is allowed to do it. Given recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings, there is even an argument to be made that the IUSA $3,000 total spending cap is a free speech limitation.
A student court holding election rules unconstitutional is well within the imagination — Wichita State University’s election body did it just last week.
Even if the IUSA Supreme Court fails, it is not the court of last appeal.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, is a nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to providing free legal assistance to students whose free speech rights have been violated on campus, just give them a call or submit a claim at their website. The election complaints are inevitable. For the rest of us, let’s get out there and vote today.
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.
More in Column
"I'll Stay" by IU alumna Karen Day will publish in January.
This year's style standouts included Celine Dion, Beyoncé and sad frat boys.
A recap of music in 2017.