Alleged violation postpones MUSG election


Photo by Vale*foto

Dan Bresnahan, Will Knight, Michaela Tarpey and Thomas Schick, the candidates originally slotted to face off in the MUSG general election, participate in a debate Sunday night moderated by MUSG Elections Coordinator David Kuester. Photo by Vale Cardenas/

A mass text message sent out by a campaign worker for Marquette Student Government presidential and vice presidential hopefuls Will Knight and Dan Bresnahan has resulted in the postponement of today’s general election until April 3. Pending review, it may result in the loss of the ticket’s spot on the ballot.

Knight and Bresnahan, who advanced past the primary election Friday by 7 votes, were slated to take on junior Michaela Tarpey and sophomore Thomas Schick, both in the College of Arts & Sciences, today in the general election.

The alleged violation was filed with the MUSG Elections Committee Saturday against the ticket of Knight, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, and Bresnahan, a junior in the College of Business Administration, according to MUSG Elections Coordinator Dave Kuester, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences.

The alleged violation involved a mass text sent out by a campaign worker for the ticket encouraging recipients to vote in the primary election, which was rerun Thursday and Friday after the original primary, held last Tuesday, was scrapped because of a technological error. The message, which was received by one Tribune staff member, was sent to at least 20 people.

Knight and Bresnahan denied knowledge of the text prior to being informed of the alleged violation Saturday. They said the campaign member who committed the alleged violation was likely unaware of the rule that prohibits the mass distribution of unsolicited electronic messages.

“The campaign worker probably didn’t know about the rule,” Bresnahan said. “The word ‘unsolicited’ is pretty vague.”

If the elections committee finds Knight and Bresnahan’s campaign guilty, a punishment would likely involve a deduction of votes from their primary election total. That deduction would likely result in Knight and Bresnahan being replaced on the ballot by Sam Schultz and Zach Bowman, who lost the primary election to them by seven votes (0.6 percent). Schultz is a junior senator from the College of Arts & Sciences; Bowman is a sophomore senator from the College of Arts & Sciences.

Past vote deductions for violations have generally been between three and five percent of received votes, Kuester said. Kuester specified that if a penalty is assessed, the number of votes deducted will come at the discretion of the Election Committee, which is comprised of undergraduate students who are unaffiliated with MUSG.

Knight and Bresnahan’s candidacy came as a surprise to some this month, as the two have no prior experience in MUSG. Tarpey, Schick, Schultz and Bowman all have prior MUSG experience, and the latter three hold prominent positions in the MUSG senate.

The alleged violation occurred on Thursday afternoon but wasn’t reported to MUSG until Saturday, Kuester and others said.

Section 12.A.3 of MUSG’s election rules states that an alleged campaign violation “must be submitted within 24 hours of gaining reasonable knowledge that a violation has occurred.” Though the alleged violation occurred more than 24 hours before the elections committee was notified, Kuester said it was submitted within 24 hours of the reporting student gaining knowledge that it was a violation.

Knight and Bresnahan were notified Saturday that a campaign violation had been filed against them. Kuester said he notified the other tickets Sunday night.

“We were notified of a campaign violation by David Kuester (Sunday) around 11 p.m. and are waiting on the decision of the Elections Committee,” Bowman said.

According to a source with direct knowledge of the alleged violation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the alleged violation could affect the primary result, the Knight-Bresnahan ticket had already received one warning about a similar incident.

Kuester said complaints had been filed against all the tickets but that these did not necessarily mean campaign rules were actually broken or that the allegations were investigated.

The Elections Committee will hold a hearing before Easter break to decide whether the alleged violation warrants a vote deduction. If the committee determines that a deduction is not warranted, Bowman may consider a write-in candidacy, according to a source close to him who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the possible candidacy had not yet been filed.

“Serious initial steps have already been taken, and things are moving forward,” the source said.

Multiple candidates agreed that MUSG campaign rules are complex and can lead to accidental violations.

“The election rules are burdensome and unnecessary,” Bowman said.