Constitutional Council delivered a unanimous opinion on Park v. Steffel et al. on April 13, ruling against the defendants and ordering a second Spring 2021 election to be held without SGA presidential candidate Rhea Kumar (22B) and vice presidential candidate Nick Paschetto (20Ox, 22B) on the ballot. 

The Council’s ruling stated that SGA President Lori Steffel (21B) and BBA Council President Emily Ferguson (21B) violated the Code of Elections by endorsing the Kumar-Paschetto campaign while serving as members of the Board of Elections. They also ruled that Kumar and Paschetto violated Part V Article 3 of the Code and that BBA Council Vice President-elect Katie Lee (22B) violated both the Elections Code and the SGA Constitution.

The SGA hearing for the Park v. Steffel et. al case occurred over Zoom on April 13. (Gabriella Lewis)

Council rules that Steffel, Ferguson were Elections Board members, violated Code

Despite not being officially confirmed to the Elections Board, the Council found that Steffel and Ferguson were “active members” of the body because they had the capacity to vote in the Elections Board GroupMe chat, “the only forum in which the Board of Elections convened.” The Council also stated that “Steffel had access to information surrounding that work and numerous opportunities to participate in it.”

The Council ruled that Steffel and Ferguson’s violation of the Code by endorsing candidates while serving on the Board has been “remedied” by Steffel’s and Ferguson’s respective removal and resignation from the Board and as such, no further consequences were necessary.

Steffel also “likely violated” the Emory Community Compact because she appeared to promote bar hopping in a “Senior Tuesdays” Facebook group, the Council noted, an activity deemed unsafe during the pandemic. The Council recommended that the “Emory community refer Steffel’s behavior” to the Office of Student Conduct. 

Council recommends impeachment proceedings against Lee

The Council determined that Lee violated the “party clause” of the Elections Code, which states that “Party candidacy is prohibited in all elections of SGA and its establishments” by endorsing the Kumar-Paschetto campaign while running for the position of BBA Council vice president. 

The Council’s opinion also stated that as president of the Alpha Kappa Psi (AKPsi) business fraternity, Lee’s texts to pledges requesting that they send her screenshots proving they voted in the election constituted voter intimidation. While the Council agreed that Lee did not require members to send their choices for the election, they wrote that “Lee’s actions were nevertheless intimidating to at least some members.”

The Council contended that AKPsi has “a toxic pledging process and the use of hazing would and may well have increased pledges’ likelihood of feeling intimidated to vote and to do so according to Lee’s preferences.” Accordingly, they recommended that BBA Council begin impeachment procedures against Lee when the next legislative session begins. 

The opinion also states that AKPsi pledging procedures and potential hazing should be reviewed by the Office of Student Conduct. 

Council rules Kumar-Paschetto campaign committed Tier 3 Elections Code violations

The Council declared that the Kumar-Paschetto campaign violated in two separate contexts a clause in the  Code of Elections which states “no method of campaigning not expressly authorized by this Code shall be permitted unless approved by the Board.” 

One violation stemmed from Kumar and Paschetto using an application called TextFree.us for a texting campaign without the consent of the Board of Elections. The other violation involved the campaign invading students’ privacy by soliciting students’ phone numbers without their consent or the Elections Board’s approval.

As punishment for these violations, the Council ordered the removal of Kumar and Paschetto from the spring 2021 presidential and vice presidential ballots. The Council called for a new election to take place “as soon as possible,” but did not specify a new date.

Recommended changes to Elections Code

As part of the opinion, the Constitutional Council stated that the Elections Code “required significant clarification” and recommended several changes.

The Council’s first recommendation included allowing the Elections Board to delay releasing results in the case of a serious challenge or extenuating circumstances by changing parts of Part III Article 2K of the Code of Elections. The article currently states that the Board cannot withhold vote tallies for more than 12 hours “under no condition.”

Other recommended changes intend to clarify the language determining the Election Board’s voting and non-voting members. In addition, the Council recommended including a clause prohibiting the SGA president from serving as a member of the Board.

Lastly, the Council recommended that Part V, Article 3, Section 1 be amended to include a working definition of “method of campaigning.” Currently, the Code does not define “method.”