SGA Supreme Court holds hearing on presidential election allegations


SGA presidential candidate Andrew Laws (right) speaks during the SGA presidential debate on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, at the Gatton Student Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Kendall Staton

UK’s student government association (SGA) held a Supreme Court hearing on March 7 to hear claims from presidential candidate administrations over election misconduct allegations.

During the violation and claims period, all candidates submitted possible violations of SGA governing codes that opposing tickets committed. These included, but were not limited to, improper event filling, failure to comply with university sanctioned student rules and improper poster placement.

First year Supreme Court justice and second year law student Dustyn Saws compared the claims to lawsuits.

“Basically, each side has sued each other on multiple accounts,” he said. “Now we are having to hear all the suits, and if they are viable, the remedy for that is a vote deduction.”

Three campaigns were on the SGA presidential election ticket: Andrew Laws/Amelia Pace, Isaac Sutherland/Mallory Hudson and Lydia Deaton/Landry Woodrum.

Unofficial election results were announced on March 1, stating Laws and Pace as the unofficial winners of the election.

The court convened in a conference room at the Gatton Student Center and allowed student viewers to watch the session in a separate room down the hall via Zoom. Chief Justice Sterling Crayton began the session at 7:10 p.m.

The claims hearing began with a submission from the Deaton-Woodrum campaign, stating the Sutherland-Hudson campaign was in violation of a university sanctioned rule, stating that no food nor candy may be handed out at The 90.

Sutherland argued that while the event in question was held and the campaign did distribute candy, they should not suffer the required 25% vote deduction.

Sutherland stated that his campaign had not been given sufficient information, and thus the reduction would be “hyperbolic.” Sutherland’s council also said the rule violated was a “soft rule” and thus should be met with some leniency.

Associate Justice Faith Turner asked Deaton if she had any evidence to substantiate one of her claims regarding the alleged placement of handbills on tables in the Gatton economics building by the Pace campaign.

Deaton responded that the campaign reached out to the UKPD to obtain security camera footage of the alleged incident.

Debate then sparked over what constitutes a violation of the university mask policy, which stated everyone must wear a mask while inside of all campus buildings at the time.

Sutherland-Hudson submitted a video of Deaton failing to wear a mask inside of a university building and stated she was in violation of the university-wide mask mandate. At the time of the hearing, UK was operating under a required mask policy.

The Sutherland-Hudson campaign brought this same complaint against Law-Pace. Campaign pictures showed Law and Pace, as well as their supporting staff, inside of university buildings with no masks on.

Turner asked whose job is it really to decide if students were in violation of the university mask policy.

The Sutherland-Hudson campaign believed this does fall within the SGA Supreme Court scope of responsibility, while the Law-Pace campaign disagreed.

“I think that it’s appropriate for us to bring it to this court in terms of anything aiding a campaign,” Sutherland said. “The reality is these pictures were published with the intent to solicit votes.”

Ben Childers, council for the Law-Pace campaign, disagreed.

“It is more proper for the masks to be challenged at the university level, not the SGA level,” he said. “This court does not have jurisdiction to make this decision.”

The Sutherland-Hudson campaign then brought about the next claim questioning the integrity of the election.

They claimed that SGA Attorney General Kamryn Stewart neglected the duty of her position by openly endorsing the Laws-Pace campaign. To support these claims, they provided screenshots of group text messages between Stewart and the election board members in which she voiced support for the Laws-Pace campaign.

Sutherland-Hudson moved for the nullification of all votes cast in this election if this claim is substantiated.

“There’s a lot of issues in SGA, and we are incredibly hopeful that the Supreme Court will take measures to ensure the equity of SGA as well as just the fairness of the overall election,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland-Hudson tried to bring in a witness, Rachel Whitehouse, to help clarify a claim of misconduct within SGA associates.

Whitehouse, a close personal friend of Laws, said that she and Laws had a conversation in which Laws stated that without Stewart’s support, he would have never run for SGA president.

“I’m here today to talk about how personal their relationship truly was,” Whitehouse said. “I do know, for a fact, that without her support he would not have considered running in the first place.”

Turner stated that she found the proceedings regarding this claim to be unethical. She then referred to Whitehouse’s willingness to testify against Laws as “disgusting.”

Associate Justice Iman Ali discussed the role of the attorney general as a member of the SGA. She believes that as attorney general, Stewart had the ability to encourage participation in the election.

“As a member of SGA, isn’t it fair to encourage folks to stay involved with SGA?” Ali asked. “We need people to speak up about it. I firmly believe this falls within [Stewart’s] scope.”

By 11:30 p.m., the once-overflowing viewing room had diminished to four people, and discussion of time constraints began.

In the interest of time, Laws-Pace moved to drop one of their claims that they felt did not warrant an appeal.

Upon the Deaton team’s completion of their last claim hearing at 11:50 p.m., Deaton felt as though the team was successful in proving it had tried to run a clean campaign and represent itself well.

The Laws-Pace council asked the Sutherland-Hudson campaign if there were any claims they were willing to throw out in the effort to conserve time. Sutherland declined on the campaign’s behalf.

The Gatton Student Center closed at midnight, which caused a relocation to the grand courtroom in the J. David Rosenberg law building. After a brief intermission to allow for traveling, court resumed at 12:30 a.m.

Laws opened with a statement that the Sutherland-Hudson campaign received support from Ellie Browning, a candidate for the College of Agriculture senator. He said this was an instance of ticketing.

Ticketing, or two parties running for different offices who endorse each other, is prohibited by the SGA governing codes.

Sutherland rebutted that as soon as Browning made her run for senate official, the campaign removed all associated materials from their social media accounts.

“We can’t verify that she was soliciting votes in any way, shape or form for both tickets at the same time,” Sutherland said.

Laws-Pace councilman Bill Devericks suggests that the Sutherland-Hudson campaign violated a Kentucky Revised Statute for hanging a poster on a permanent UK sign.

Hudson stated that this claim only had merit if there was damage done to the sign, and since there was no change to the condition of the sign, the issue was irrelevant.

Justice Chittenden warned the complainants to tread lightly with accusations of criminal mischief against the respondents.

Childers’ argument to substantiate the next claim hinged on another accusation of criminal mischief. He was met with blank stares from the justices.

Childers and Devericks both said they felt they performed well at the hearing and were both just excited to gain some experience. It was Childers’ first time representing a client in a non-academic setting, and Devericks’ first time giving an oral argument.

“I think the Supreme Court should be utilized more in terms of finding justice,” Devericks said. “I really trust our justices to do just that.”

Laws said he felt the council did a great job presenting the facts and showing that Laws-Pace ran a fair campaign. Pace agreed, saying, “I’m proud that we were able to come out and support our beliefs and just follow the UK SGA guidelines and make sure that they were upheld throughout the election process.”

Sutherland and Hudson, however, voiced their concern over the inner workings of the SGA.

“I think a big thing is, the justices, they’re not necessarily biased in a public way, but I mean, one of the justices blatantly called Rachel Whitehouse a disgusting human being,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland and Hudson requested for Turner to be expunged due to her “obvious distaste” for their witness.

“We can’t state this in front of the court because it’s hearsay, but the judges are all law students. And a lot of these law students are great fans of Kamryn Stewart, the attorney general,” Sutherland said. “And a lot of them are friends with the Laws-Pace team.”

Sutherland and Hudson said they hoped to win the presidential race to fix systemic issues within SGA.

“We’ve been sitting here arguing because we want to honor the integrity of the election,” Hudson said. “This is us honoring SGA and how SGA is meant to represent every student on the University of Kentucky’s campus.”

The claims and violations hearing was closed to the public at 1:24 a.m. on March 8. SGA shared a post via Instagram later that day declaring Laws and Pace as the official winners of the 2022 presidential election.