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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Student Senate, Yell Leaders discuss campaign clothing regulation

Election+commissioner+Paige+Rigsby+and+former+election+commissioner+Rachel+Keathley%26%23160%3Bpresent+the+Election+Regulations+Administrative+Act.%26%23160%3B
Photo by Photo by Luke Henkhaus

Election commissioner Paige Rigsby and former election commissioner Rachel Keathley present the Election Regulations Administrative Act. 

Junior Yell Leaders Connor Joseph and Gavin Suel weighed in on a proposed campaign regulation that came to dominate discussion during Wednesday night’s meeting of the Texas A&M Student Senate.
The rule, which was ultimately removed from the final version of the Election Regulations Administrative Act, aimed to prevent candidates in the upcoming student body election from gaining an advantage by wearing specific articles of clothing that are often only available to incumbents.
“While campaigning, candidates shall not be allowed to wear any uniform, polo or clothing specific to and/or bearing the logo of an organization for which the candidate is campaigning,” the regulation read. “This regulation shall not pertain to a cadet’s uniform worn as determined by the Corps of Cadets leadership.”
Former election commissioner Rachel Keathley said the regulation was designed to provide a more level playing field by preventing misperceptions among voters, particularly in races for lesser-known positions.
“There is this impression a lot of times with voters that maybe this candidate is being endorsed by that organization,” Keathley said. “I’m scrolling through Facebook and I see there are three people running for [Residential Housing Authority] and I’m not sure who to vote for. ‘Well this girl, she’s wearing this polo, so she must be someone official.’ And for an uneducated voter, it’s very easy to make those assumptions.”
Since the regulation offered no exception for the white uniforms worn by Aggie Yell Leaders, Joseph said he was concerned that Junior Yell Leaders such as himself and Suel could be vulnerable to unintended violations while wearing their uniforms at various events throughout the semester.
“Part of our job is to be the face and service ambassadors to the student body to interact and sometimes that means standing in front of someone’s 5K sign and taking pictures for an hour or more as people come through,” Joseph said. “Our responsibility would be to, as we take pictures, tell them ‘please don’t post this picture during this week with this caption,’ which is why I suggested that that would be a hindrance to the job that we are there to accomplish.”
However, Keathley said Joseph and Suel would be unlikely to face violations unless those posting photos had some verifiable connection to their campaign operations.
“If I’m just a random person, I can go write on the sidewalk or I’m sitting in my class and I’m like ‘oh, this person looks cool, you should vote for them,’ those things aren’t reported, those things aren’t usually assessed,” Keathley said. “There has to be sufficient evidence that someone was acting as part of the campaign team or something was doing something on behalf of the candidate.”
Aside from concerns over unintended violations, Suel said regulating use of the clothing could hinder incumbents’ ability to visibly convey the experience they bring to the table.
“We are arguing on behalf of all incumbents running for reelection because we do believe that incumbent advantage is one that is good,” Suel said.
A previous version of the bill, including the clothing regulation and a host of others intended to strengthen and clarify regulations after last spring’s tumultuous student body elections, was passed during the 69th Student Senate’s final meeting in April 2017. However, due to a Senate rule stating that no legislation can be passed in the final meeting of a session, the bill had to be approved by the 70th Student Senate during Wednesday’s meeting in order for the regulations to take effect in this spring’s elections.
Though the technical delay gave senators the opportunity to discuss and ultimately remove the clothing regulation, the rest of the original bill remained intact, setting the new standards for upcoming elections.

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