Q&A: Presidential hopeful Jacqueline LaBayne talks disqualification, special election

Despite winning the February election, the president and her vice president-elect must now try to pull off a second win.


Jacqueline LaBayne and Kyle MacDonald. Photo courtesy of Jacqueline LaBayne

Cameren Boatner, Staff Writer

Jacqueline LaBayne and Kyle MacDonald won the election for student body president and vice president by a landslide, but now they’ll have to do it again.


After violating SG statutes by campaigning too early, the ticket was disqualified, despite winning more than half of the 2,317 votes cast in the February election. And because the election was later invalidated, Student Government held a special election April 24-24 to decide the next president and vice president.


MacDonald is the current student body vice president under Emily Lawless, while LaBayne is the Council of Student Organizations director.


In the middle of seeking re-election, LaBayne and MacDonald share their thoughts on the state of SG.


UP: What do you think about the special election?


LaBayne: It’s kind of crazy how all this turned out. I didn’t anticipate this at all. I thought after the first election when we won, everything was going to be smooth sailing, but obviously it wasn’t. I’m just happy we were given this second chance to let the students vote so there’s no mistakes. I think it’s the students’ vote that counts and that’s the most important thing.


MacDonald: I think the special election is the best option for the students and everyone involved. It’s not what I wanted and I don’t think it’s what the other parties involved wanted, but I think it’s the best option for everyone. It’s the best middle ground. I’m sure that the people running against me, Marianne Alex and her running mate … do not want a new election. I’m sure of that.


LaBayne: Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions. Of course I wanted it because I believe the students chose who they want to represent them the first time and we’re given that chance again. Hopefully.


UP: How do you respond to your ticket’s violation of SG statutes? (see A “Major” Mistake sidebar following the story)


MacDonald: What’s really interesting about this is that we posted a GoFundMe. How it normally works is we do a Declaration of Candidacy. So, at some point before the election starts, we have a day where we have to put in our candidacy, meaning it’s public record. This year, the Student Court and Election Board had decided that they would allow people to fundraise and simply state they are running. So, I had asked Doug Speed, the Elections Board chair, and said we were going to create a GoFundMe in order to fundraise, and so we got approval to fundraise. The post was up for about a day and then we were informed by the board that they had messed up and we couldn’t have a GoFundMe. We immediately took it down, so I figured we were fine because we got approval from the board who oversees elections and gives out sanctions.


LaBayne: I think it’s ridiculous honestly. We got approval from the Elections Board. I would never maliciously go and campaign early. That wasn’t my intent at all. I thought I was doing everything right. You know, crossing my T’s, dotting my I’s, but obviously someone screenshotted it and got us disqualified the first time. I don’t think [the Facebook post] was up for more than 24 hours. We took it down immediately and refunded the money. We didn’t think it would be as big of a controversy as it was. Personally, I don’t think they had any grounds to disqualify us. I mean, getting disqualified over a Facebook post was a shocker. I got really emotional in the courtroom because I was just so upset and I get that, in their eyes, they’re doing their job, but it’s supposed to be a learning lab. We don’t get everything right. I’m not saying it was right or wrong but we’re supposed to learn from our past experiences.


UP: What are your opinions on the SG statutes?


LaBayne: They always say Student Government is a learning experience. It’s a learning lab. Those statutes are really long and somebody who has never run for a position before, it’s hard to understand those. A lot of them need to be reworded. I see why a lot of students are intimidated by Student Government. It’s because of the language and I feel like if we worked on creating that Student Government-to-student relationship and getting the students to understand what SG does, I think it would really benefit the school.


MacDonald: I think they’re very convoluted and they need to be fixed. I think it’s clear that there needs to be a check on the judicial branch. The way Student Government statutes are set up right now, there is no check on the Student Court. So, when the Student Court rules on an issue, no one has to sign it. So, when something is brought to them, they make their decision on anything and there’s no one there to say otherwise. In theory, if they make a decision that they weren’t supposed to make, there is no check. That was the issue with the special election. No one was able to say, “No, you couldn’t have done that,” and that’s why they called for a new election.


UP: What is the opposition to the special election?


MacDonald: There’s backlash from the people that supported me. They’re saying, “You won by over 800 votes.” We had permission to make the Facebook post and the conflict of interest just blew over, so it’s crazy that we were disqualified, or that’s what my supporters are saying. I’m sure [runner-up] Marianne’s supporters would be upset because they would rather her just be declared the winner after our disqualification.


UP: What is your response to the fact that some are saying the special election is “illegal?”


LaBayne: I would say it’s not illegal just because of the mistakes the [Elections Board] made in the first election. Ultimately, it should be the students who should pick the president and vice president and the students didn’t pick [runner-up Marianne Alex]. The first time the students spoke and got their votes out and I think the second time will be the same. I hope from now on the Student Court does what they think is best in their hearts and what they think will be best for the students. I hope they put the students first.


MacDonald: I wouldn’t say the elections are illegal for some of the reasons I’ve already gone over. I think the special election, if anything, is the best medium for everyone because it allows the students to vote in the election, and it’s important that their vote is heard. If a majority of students voted for someone, then unless they can prove those votes were invalid, they should become the winner. No real election was ever thrown out over a Facebook post. I’m fine with the special elections because I want the students to decide. I don’t think a student court of four students out of 30,000 should be able to decide the fate of an entire election.


UP: Why did you decide to run in the first place?


LaBayne: Everyone always laughs because I say I’m going to be the president of the United States one day just because I’ve gone through a lot and I want to help people. That’s why I started in Student Government. That’s why I’ve done everything, it’s because I want to help people. They all say, “Jackie, it’s dirty. You don’t want to get involved in that. Everything is a game and people try to go against you. You watch ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Scandal.’ They paint this vivid picture of what politics is.” It was hard running with school work and my organizations. But God has a plan for everything and I hope his plan is good for me and for the students as well.


UP: Is there anything you want the student body to know?


MacDonald: This won’t go on forever and I hope all this craziness comes to an end soon, but their vote does matter and it’s important to vote in the student elections.


LaBayne: Go out and vote because your voice matters.


A “Major” Mistake

A rundown of the violation committed by Jacqueline LaBayne and Kyle MacDonald that led to their disqualification.


After a landslide victory, two Facebook posts cost former President-elect Jacqueline LaBayne and Kyle MacDonald the February election.


The posts, which included a link to their GoFundMe, went up 10 days before the campaign period, the only time when candidates are allowed to campaign ahead of Election Day. Campaigning outside of that period is known as a “major violation” of Student Government law, according to statute 319.300(j).


This is despite the fact that LaBayne and MacDonald received permission from the Elections Board to post the GoFundMe link. The board later withdrew its approval, stating the post counted as a campaign effort under SG statutes and that initially approving it was a mistake.


February presidential runner-up Marianne Alex then brought the violation to the Student Court, whose justices disqualified LaBayne and MacDonald from the election.


Immediately following the decision, MacDonald asked, “We won by 1,000 votes and you’re going to try to disqualify us for a Facebook post?”


Several weeks later, elections supervisor Douglas Speed called for a special election.

Student Government At Odds

Current student body President Emily Lawless weighs in on the special election.


While Emily Lawless thinks the special election is what’s best for Student Government long term, she maintains it’s hurting what is left of her time as president.


She cited low attendance at one of her recent events as a sign things aren’t the way they should be.


To raise awareness for sexual assault, Lawless hosted an “It’s On Us” event. After spending $4,000, she said only 30 people showed up.


“They just completely disregarded current Student Government to start focusing on post-Student Government,” she said.


Lawless added that this distraction has left her feeling helpless in her term and created a divide in Student Government, which makes it difficult to get work done.


She commented that there is a misconception Kyle MacDonald and Jacqueline LaBayne broke campaign rules.


Because they got permission for the post from the Elections Board, Lawless said, the candidates should’ve been in the clear, despite the board later admitting its approval was a mistake.


Cameren Boatner is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected]