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The chair of the ASUM election committee resigned yesterday after the Senate voted against punishing a pair of executive candidates for a bylaw infraction, just one week before the 2021 election. 

Cierra Anderson, former ASUM elections chair, brought the grievance against candidate pair Noah Durnell and Canyon Lock for illegally using a third-party endorsement, an action forbidden in the ASUM bylaws. 

“I agreed to be the elections chair so I could help run a fair election, and the Senate last night showed me with their vote that that’s not gonna be a possibility for next year,” Anderson told the Kaimin Thursday. “I don’t feel like I can do my job if the Senate can’t do theirs.”

@umontana24, an Instagram account made for incoming freshmen and run by freshman Senator Noah Vanderkar (campaign manager for Durnell and Lock), posted an Instagram story endorsing the Durnell-Lock campaign. Two formal complaints were made against the endorsement, citing a bylaw that no UM-affiliated group can endorse a candidate. 

Vanderkarr, who started the Instagram account in the weeks leading up to his freshman year to connect his fellow classmates, argued that @umontana24 is not affiliated with the University, and therefore, wouldn’t count as a third-party endorsement. The account states in its bio that it is unaffiliated, however, it does use UM logos and features exclusively UM students and events.

“The main point of the argument was whether or not that account is run by a third party,” Vanderkarr told the Kaimin Thursday evening. “We can have discussions all day long about ASUM elections reform at another point, but according to the bylaws, as they stand right now, we as a Senate did not do anything wrong.”

“The fact that the senators in question running for ASUM executives did nothing wrong and they were getting punished for my actions was not OK with me,” he said.

After a contentious Senate debate over whether or not the freshman senator’s post violated ASUM bylaws — and whether the Instagram account should be considered third-party — the majority voted not to punish the Durnell-Lock campaign. 

In an email to senators, Anderson, a third-year law student, said she refused to be a part of the election after the events of the previous Senate meeting.

“What I refuse to accept is the inability to do my job or watch the hard work and dedication of the elections committee be hindered and diminished by a Senate unwilling to enforce its own bylaws.” she stated in the email. “The actions of the Senate tonight call into question the integrity of our elections and of our organization as a whole.”

In an email to the Kaimin Friday, presidential candidate Noah Durnell said that the complaint brought against his campaign to the ASUM Senate was “an erroneous decision made by the elections committee.”

“We find it disturbing that anyone would insult the integrity of the Senate, which is made up of many outstanding individuals, by insinuating that they cannot determine for themselves whether an elections grievance occurred,” Durnell said, adding that the grievance failed by a large margin. 

“The elections committee does phenomenal work, but their recommendations are only that — recommendations. We thank Cierra Anderson for her service as elections chair and are furthermore saddened that this election has proved so contentious.”

The ASUM Elections Committee is responsible for holding, monitoring and arranging the yearly elections for the ASUM offices of president, vice president, business manager and senators. It also conducts referendums and special elections if necessary. 

Anderson and the committee had two proposed sanctions in mind — either barring the duo from appearing on the ballot, or preventing them from further campaigning. In the end, neither came to the table, since the Senate failed to uphold the grievance. 

Current ASUM President Taylor Gregory voted for the grievance to be upheld, and said he felt the violation was clear.

“It was a pretty straightforward violation, but the Senate didn’t uphold the recommendation from the elections committee,” Gregory said. 

This year’s ASUM election cycle has not been without drama. In March, the Senate voted to suspend one of the two president/VP teams, Lyssa Schei and Sydney Lessinger, after the duo did not collect more than the necessary 100 signatures needed to run a campaign.

This year’s ASUM elections will be held on the UMontana app and online on April 14, starting at midnight and closing at 8 p.m. on April 15.

Friday 4/9/21: This story has been updated to include statements from the Durnell-Lock campaign and Senator Noah Vanderkarr.