Pants Party faces possible election sanction
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 2:45 a.m.
The University of Florida Elections Commission recommended to the Supreme Court Wednesday that all candidates with the Pants Party be disqualified from the elections after members failed to quit handing out "I voted" stickers even after being told to stop.
Any Pants Party candidates winning seats in the election may be removed if the Supreme Court determines that Pants should, in fact, be disqualified.
The commission issued a cease and desist order on Tuesday after receiving a formal complaint from John Clay Brett, a former senator and backer of the Gator Party, that several members of the Pants Party, including presidential hopeful Bruce Haupt, were handing out "I voted" stickers to students around campus.
"The 'I voted' stickers were used to further the objectives of a particular party or platform," Jesus Suarez, the legal counsel for the Gator Party, told the Elections Commission. "They sought to discourage people from voting and they sought to misrepresent the fact that those 'I voted' stickers were handed out by the Elections Commission."
He concluded that the stickers should be considered campaign material that must be registered with the Supervisor of Elections, which they were not.
"Obviously I disagree," Pants Party President David Meyrowitz said. "I don't believe the plaintiff provided any evidence that (the stickers) were campaign material. It was all circumstantial evidence."
Supervisor of Elections Brian Aungst personally delivered the cease and desist order to Haupt who was handing out the stickers in Turlington Plaza.
The response from the Pants Party was that it would not stop handing out the stickers to students.
"The cease and desist order was summarily ignored by both an agent of the party and the party itself," Suarez said.
The legal counsel for the Pants Party claimed that the Gator Party failed to prove that the 'I voted' stickers have furthered the objectives of the party. Campaign material is defined as something supporting a particular party or candidate, she said.
Meyrowitz said that he and the party felt that Jennifer Cohen, the chairwoman of the Elections Commission, acted outside her authority in issuing the order because the determination of whether the stickers were campaign material had not been made.
The party also argued the stickers were meant to inflate the market so that they wouldn't mean anything, Meyrowitz said.
He said the party had no intention for students to use them to get out of voting.
After more than an hour of debate, the commission ruled that the stickers should be considered campaign materials because they did in fact "benefit" the party.
Furthermore, the commission decided to make an example of the party, insisting that when it gave an order it could not be undermined without serious consequences.
"I believe that the ruling was completely proportionate to the offense," said Brett, who refused to testify at the meeting. "Not necessarily in handing out the stickers but that a political party that intends to govern would arrogantly ignore a cease and desist order."
The Pants Party plans an appeal to the Supreme Court as soon as possible, Meyrowitz said.
The Supreme Court will most likely meet in the coming weeks after the election to make a determination on whether the party should be disqualified .
"This is completely unheard of ever," Supervisor of Elections Brian Aungst said. "I've never experienced this in my five years here.
"This is the first time the Supreme Court will hear something like this," he said.
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