From an outside view, the 2020 IU Student Government congressional elections looked like any other. Signs were posted all over campus and social media campaigns formed. But in the weeks leading up to the election, something more uncommon formed in the background: a complaint with the IU election commission.
Two major coalitions rose to prominence when the open campaign season started: ReviveIU and ReImagineIU. The two coalitions each endorsed dozens of candidates for different IUSG congressional seats.
Documents obtained by the Indiana Daily Student show on Sept. 10, Kyle Reynolds and Charlie Willis, two of ReviveIU’s leaders, submitted a complaint against ReImagineIU, their coalition’s main competitor. The 76-page complaint alleged multiple violations of the election code and asked IUSG’s election commission to disqualify nearly all of ReImagineIU’s candidates.
“The first thing I read is that it was seeking to disqualify something like 26 candidates,” said Steven Rigg, a leader for ReImagineIU. “Obviously, that was a pretty existential threat.”
The allegations suggested ReImagineIU campaigned before Sept. 9, which would’ve been outside of the designated campaign period. The coalition did print and hang posters across the campus before Sept. 9, but ReImagineIU told the commission that was within their rights.
“The posters were a call to action for disgruntled students,” Rigg said to the election commission in a written response. “In fact, the posters themselves do not even mention IUSG whatsoever.”
One thing that could complicate the relationship between ReImagineIU and IUSG’s executive branch is Rigg’s suspicion that members of the executive branch were involved with the complaint.
“I do think there was an executive connection,” Rigg said. “We believe that Andrew Ireland was involved. He viewed all of our documents. We can see that by looking at the activity report for our documents. He accessed them at the time when the complaint was being written.”
Andrew Ireland, chief of staff for the executive branch, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Reynolds said he discussed some elements of the election code with members of the executive branch, though he said nobody there was involved in the writing or editing of the complaint and he spoke about the issues nonspecifically. He also said he and Willis were the only two ReviveIU members involved in the complaint’s crafting. Reynolds would not specifically say with which members of the executive branch he discussed the issues.
Much of the information in ReviveIU’s complaint against ReImagineIU was based on more than 20 pages of leaked GroupMe messages sent between ReImagineIU members. Some of those messages showed plans to hang posters around the campus.
Rigg said it came as a surprise to them when they read the complaint.
“We had no idea that was happening,” Rigg said. “To this day, we still don’t know who was the one that leaked the information.”
He said some members of ReImagineIU have switched to a different communication platform to prevent a leak in the future.
Other allegations in the complaint suggested ReImagineIU violated university branding requirements and improperly used mass emails. When the election commission responded to ReviveIU’s complaint Sept. 14, four days after the complaint’s filing, it rejected all the complaints except the allegation that ReImagineIU campaigned outside of the designated time period.
The election commission voted to accept the complaint regarding campaigning in an unauthorized time and asked that ReImagineIU provide a response addressing the situation, according to the commission response.
The commission requested Rigg provide documentation to show they were not openly campaigning outside of the designated time period, which he did within 24 hours of the request.
“I do not endorse the use of IUSG or the Election Commission to harass particular members of a student group,” Rigg said to the election commission. “Nevertheless, in the interest of my peers who may be affected if I do not act, I will submit this response to clear confusion.”
Rigg said the posters were not meant to be advertisements for his coalition, but rather a call to action.
“Our goal was to just get people to apply,” Rigg said. “We were just looking for people that care about the future of IU and want to make a difference. The purpose was just to get people to apply for Congress. There was no mention in any of our marketing materials that said ‘vote for ReImagineIU candidates.’”
The election commission, after reading ReImagineIU’s response, dismissed that final complaint. No candidates were disqualified and no remedies were taken on ReImagineIU.
“The election commission dismissed all of the complaints,” Rigg said. “We did nothing wrong. We have nothing to hide.”
Reynolds expressed his feelings against the decision.
“We did disagree with the election commission’s decision, but we also respect them as the governing body for IUSG elections and respect their decision,” Reynolds said.
When the election results were released, ReviveIU and ReImagineIU secured 23 and 17 seats, respectively, making them the two largest coalitions in IUSG Congress. ReviveIU’s Garrett Wright recently became IUSG Congress’s new Speaker, while ReImagineIU’s Willow Johnson won her election to become the body’s Parliamentarian.
Despite a pre-election fight, Reynolds and Rigg now both serve in IUSG Congress and will have to work together on a few key issues. Both are confident they’ll still be able to work together, despite the election complaint.
“There’s a good amount of cooperation, especially on broadly agreed topics such as tuition reform and fee review,” Reynolds said. “We hope we can work with them to pass some of those worthwhile policies.”
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.
More in News
Myers is the first Black candidate for the governor of Indiana for either major party.
The Indiana Daily Student is compiling all of our coverage of sexual harassment allegations against associate professor Murray McGibbon. Read on, and check back for our coverage of the IU community’s response.
All four members were in the fraternity’s fall 2018 pledge class.