Seven months ago, Law student Peter Borock, the former chair of the University Elections Commission, wrote the UEC’s opinion on a hearing that delayed the approval of the Central Student Government election by weeks and nearly cost Business senior Manish Parikh and LSA junior Omar Hashwi the CSG presidency and vice presidency.

Today, the assembly is still discussing the charges of e-mail listserv abuse during the March CSG election, which spurred the hearing after a supporter e-mailed several listservs he didn’t own to encourage students to vote for Parikh and Hashwi.

Despite the 17 filed election complaints, Borock wrote — in a decision that essentially condensed what was already the most competitive CSG election in recent memory into a 3-2 decision — that these unprecedented legal proceedings were not the result of ill-intentioned candidates, but a deeply flawed election code.

“The Central Student Government Compiled Code article on elections is poorly constructed, containing a number of incoherent, ambiguous, contradictory and absurd provisions,” he wrote in the decision.

Since then, the election code has been struck from the CSG Compiled Code in its entirety, and after a month of revisions, a resolution for a new election code co-authored by nine people was proposed at Tuesday night’s CSG assembly meeting.

Jeremy Keeney, a Law student and CSG rules committee chair, and Michael Proppe, a Business junior and assembly speaker, said at the meeting that they hope the proposed election code will prevent the recurrence of similar hearings and introduce other beneficial rules for the next major CSG election in March 2013.

The sweeping, 15-page resolution addresses several issues that stemmed from the March elections and, unlike the former code, defines abuse of e-mail listservs, coordination between candidates and their supporters and introduces campaign finance language.

In response to confusion during the March hearing concerning the definition of ownership of University listservs, the proposed election code states that only the owner listed by the MCommunity website may be allowed to send campaign e-mails to a listserv.

While the proposed and former election codes punish abuse of listservs with demerits for every person the e-mail is sent to, the UEC cited “mitigating factors” in its decision to lower the number of demerits it awarded to Parikh and Hashwi from more than 1,000 to four. Five demerits are needed to disqualify a candidate from the election.

The use of mitigating factors was appealed and the case was brought to the CSJ, which could only make a decision based on the mitigating factors outlined by the UEC at that time. While CSJ later found that only two of the 11 mitigating factors were valid, the decision was upheld based on those factors when the hearing was remanded to the UEC.

However, under the proposed election code, “questions of law are reviewed using a de novo standard” by the CSJ, meaning it is required to look at each case as if it is being heard for the first time.

“Before, the standard was the UEC had to be clearly wrong, in order for the Central Student Judiciary to overrule them when they mitigated damages,” Keeney said. “Now they just have to be wrong in the CSJ’s opinion — in order to be wrong is a lower threshold than to be clearly wrong.”

Furthermore, the election code would require that an infraction committed by a non-candidate fulfill three components in order for demerits to be awarded to a candidate. The three components would better define coordination and implied coordination between a candidate and his or her supporters, an issue that was hotly contested during the March hearing.

Aside from changes that are solely reactionary to that hearing, the addition of campaign finance laws to the election code would have required additional paperwork by each campaign.

According to the proposed regulation, presidential campaigns cannot spend more than $1,000 toward their campaign and parties can only spend an additional $50 for each legislative candidate running with their party. This would have limited, for instance, the amount of spendable funds for Parikh and Hashwi’s campaign last spring to $1,000, but would have allowed MForward to spend $2,700 because it had a presidential ticket and 34 legislative candidates.

Moreover, only students would be able to donate to campaigns, and those donations would be limited to $25 for each legislative campaign and $100 for presidential tickets.

All spending and donations would have to be reported to the UEC before the polls open through forms described in the proposed resolution. Those forms would then be made public online within 24 hours after they are submitted to the UEC.

Furthermore, any campaign funds not spent by the end of the election must be “reported to the UEC, must be donated to the (Student Organization Funding Commission), a University of Michigan sponsored scholarship fund, or a 501(c)(3) charity of the candidate’s choice” within one week of the election results.

The resolution, however, does not define the difference between the general funds a party owns and funds specifically allocated to campaigning.

“I guess under the current language, my understanding of this would be campaign funds is money spent during the election period on the election,” Proppe said. “I think that’s a really good point that we need to clarify though.”

Similarly, the resolution has no language to prevent laundering of campaign donations through other students by non-students, or those who have maxed out their donations.

“There’s actually no way to track that,” Keeney said.

Lastly, the resolution lacks language that indicates if money donated to a party for a legislative candidate must be spent specifically on that candidate or if that money can be spent on the presidential campaign or other legislative candidates.

Violation of rules regarding campaign finance would be regarded as a major infraction under the proposed resolution and would be punishable by two to four demerits.

While the addition of financial regulations adds a multitude of ways students can violate the election code, Proppe said the benefit of the legislation outweighs potential hearings that could stem from it.

“I don’t think it’s good to eliminate good rules because we’re afraid they’ll be broken,” Proppe said.

Keeney added that the new code also levels the playing field of campaigns.

“The overall purpose of this is to increase transparency as to how much people are spending and to make it fair so that someone who comes from a rich family doesn’t automatically have an advantage,” he said. “I feel like this is a good, at least, first step toward that.”

Endorsements made by CSG members, another issue during the March election, are also addressed by the resolution.

“Neither the Assembly nor any of its committees, commissions, select committees, UEC, University Elections Judiciary, nor Election Director shall endorse any candidate in any election,” the proposed election code reads.

This stipulation would have come into effect last year when Michael Budros, then a vice-chair of SOFC, wrote a viewpoint in The Michigan Daily endorsing Business junior Shreya Singh for president and signed the viewpoint with his full title. The amount of demerits that could be issued for this infraction is unclear because it’s not listed in the minor, major or egregious infractions sections of the proposed election code.

The idea of preventing members of CSG from publicly endorsing candidates was originally discussed in April following the election, but a resolution with language similar to that of the proposed election code was voted down.

The proposed election code however, added that “as individuals, members of CSG may endorse the candidacy of any candidate in any election.”

Finally, a rule that restricted a party from capitalizing more than the first letter of its name was absent from the proposed resolution. youMICH, MForward and OurMichigan could all have been pressed for one demerit under this rule, although no party filed a complaint.

The resolution will be discussed and further tabled at Sunday’s rules committee meeting. It will require a majority of support from the assembly, as it changes only the compiled code of CSG — not its constitution or operating procedures, both of which require a two-thirds majority.

Correction appended: A previous version of this article misrepresented the maximum amount of funds that a student could contribute to a Central Student Government campaign.

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