Last Tuesday, LSA Student Government President Leslie Zaikis, speaking on behalf of LSA-SG’s executive board, announced that it had asked the newly formed Michigan Vision Party and the Michigan Action Party to refrain from running party candidates in LSA-SG’s upcoming March elections.
But that announcement has come under some criticism as it may violate LSA-SG’s own bylaws.
On Wednesday, former LSA-SG President Keith Reisinger submitted a letter to the Daily’s opinion section pointing out the possible contradiction. The full letter is published on today’s opinion page.
“First, it is a violation of the LSA-SG Bylaws to not allow students to come together and form parties to run in elections and have their party name appear on the election ballot,” Reisinger wrote in the letter.
Reisinger is referring to Chapter 20, Section 16 of the government’s bylaws. That bylaw states, “Candidates may jointly request in writing using the Party Name Request Form to the LSA-SG Election Director that a party name be printed on the ballot along with their own names. This request must come no later than the filing deadline for the election. The proposed party must contain at least half the number of candidates (rounded up) for all positions open in the election. No party may run more candidates than there are seats available.”
Zaikis’s original announcement came after weeks of internal discussions with the executive board — made up of the president, vice president, treasurer, counsel, external relations officer, academic relations officer and secretary — but not the entirety of the LSA-SG body.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Zaikis said the executive board’s intention was to promote a system in which issues are the focus of the election, not parties. The idea was that candidates who run with a party are identified more with being part of that party than with the issues they are campaigning on behalf of, she said.
In an interview this week, Reisinger said that’s exactly the opposite of what being in a party does.
“Parties are how we get diversity. This is how we get diverse constituents on government, by allowing parties, because parties will go out and do all the outreach that people don’t have time to do,” Reisinger said. “Government attracts the same type of people, and so if you’re not purposefully outreaching different groups of people, by eliminating parties, you’re eliminating diversity.”
Steven Benson, the counsel for LSA-SG, said that on Tuesday night, LSA-SG leaders encouraged people to run on independent tickets, as opposed to telling them that parties are outlawed. He said that knowing this, the executive board is acting accordingly.
“We’re open for parties to run,” Benson said. “We’re allowing it to happen. The bylaws call for it.”