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By Amanda Riddle
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 12, 1997

Wilson won't get new election, court rules


Karen C. Tully
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Third-year law student David Benton, Associated Students President Rhonda Wilson's counsel, addresses the ASUA Supreme Court last night as (from right) Elections Commissioner Anthony Hill; Jill Trumbull-Harris, the Election Commission's counsel; and Wilson look on. Wilson lost her appeal of the ASUA general election results..

The ASUA Supreme Court denied President Rhonda Wilson's appeal for another election last night, saying her ability to compete in the presidential campaign was not harmed by her campaign suspension.

Wilson stated in her written appeal of the March 4 and 5 general election that the Associated Students Elections Commission violated the section of the ASUA Elections Code that dictates a specific timeline for announcing suspensions.

Elections Commissioner Anthony Hill suspended Wilson's privileges to campaign from 10 p.m. Feb. 3 to 6 p.m. Feb. 4, asserting that she violated campaigning spending regulations outlined in the Elections Code.

The suspension coincided with the first day of the ASUA general elections.

"The commission's actions were so tainted in the elections process that the court should find the general election results null and void," David Benton, Wilson's counsel and a third-year law student, said at last night's hearing.

The Supreme Court, a panel of five University of Arizona law students, ruled against her appeal, though it acknowledged that Hill violated the timeline and therefore infringed on Wilson's due process rights.

The Supreme Court ruled that Hill violated the section of the Elections Code which states that suspensions be issued by the Elections Commission by noon each business day and become effective 2 p.m. on that day.

Hill said he felt he needed to notify Wilson immediately, rather than waiting until Feb. 4 at noon, because it prevented the suspension from being carried over to Feb. 5, the second day of the election.

Benton said, "We believe the commission's actions unduly and unfairly burdened her (Wilson's) ability to participate in the election."

But Chief Justice Dev Sethi, a third-year law student, said after the hearing that had Wilson been suspended according to the rules, it would have harmed her campaign more.

If Hill had followed the Elections Code and suspended Wilson from 2 p.m. Feb. 4 until 2 p.m. Feb. 5, she would have been restricted from campaigning during both days of the general election.

The court ruled that no harm had been done by Hill's violation of the Elections Code and, in turn, the violation of Wilson's due process rights. Therefore, Wilson is not entitled to a new election, the court said.

After the announcement of the verdict, however, Wilson said she disagreed with the decision of the Elections Commission to inform her of her suspension from campaigning at 7 p.m. Feb. 3, the day before the first day of general elections.

"Because he did it so late I didn't have a chance to have my side shown," Wilson said.

Last week, Wilson appealed the suspension itself to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court denied that appeal, ruling that Wilson committed a technical violation of the Elections Code because she did not list poster paper she received from her mother as a no-cost item on her expense form.

At that hearing, Sethi said Wilson did not "knowingly and willfully" violate the code, but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Elections Commission because of the technical violation.

After hearing last week's decision, Benton announced that Wilson would appeal the results of the general election because the commission "erroneously and improperly suspended Wilson from her campaign privileges."

After last night's ruling, Wilson said she appealed the suspension of her campaigning privileges to the Supreme Court and the results of the general elections because she wanted the students to know that she did not try to violate the Elections Code.

"I wanted to be able to walk away from the trial and fulfill my term and still have support and confidence of the student body," Wilson said. "No matter what happened tonight my reputation could not have been restored."

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