Breakdown of SG spring election

Christopher Massana

Campaigning for the Student Government elections may have ended Feb. 19, but with claims that the new voting system is inaccurate, charges of rule-breaking by candidates, and that the election itself may have been mishandled, the struggle for the position of student body president is still ongoing.

Ella Tepper won according to the unofficial results, but she was challenged by two other candidates, and she’s not the only one coming under fire. Both Pedro Amirato and LaTasha Lee, the second and third place finishers, respectively, have filed challenges to the results. Out of the presidential candidates in the election, only Addison Hosner’s ticket remains unchallenged.

Now locked in a three-way battle for the presidency, the candidates face not only each other, but also the Elections Board, and a new voting system. Here’s what’s happened so far.

Unofficial results:
The unofficial election results were posted at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20. Tepper was the unofficial winner with 7,094 points, 43 points over Amirato (with 7,051), and 57 over LaTasha Lee (with 7,037). Hosner finished last with 6,718 points.

Unofficial results challenged:
After the unofficial results were posted, candidates were allowed a 24-hour period to prepare and file complaints (also called contestations) of the election. Candidates must be able to make a case for their challenges by showing which regulation was violated and be able to give some evidence of a violation.

Challenges considered:
On Monday, Feb. 25, the Elections Board heard all prepared challenges that had been submitted, choosing which would proceed to a full hearing the next day. Many cases were outright dismissed due to having a lack of evidence, not having sufficient legal basis in th   e Student Government statutes, or for being irrelevant to the election in general. Some cases, however, made it through, or were passed on to the Student Court.

Challenges heard by the Elections Board:

  • Amirato/Callahan vs. Eindbinder, Broudy, and Tepper
    • The Amirato ticket charged Tepper and Broudy for their campaign manager, A.J. Eindbinder, improperly using social media (Facebook was cited in this case) to influence about 15 people to vote by sending a Facebook message telling people how to rank the candidates — Tepper and Broudy first. This case was ultimately dismissed.
  • Tepper/Broudy vs. Amirato/Callahan
    • The Tepper ticket charged Amirato for not getting his sponsors approved for his campaign materials. Since these campaign materials (T-shirts) would have been approved if they had been submitted, Amirato got a reprimand, rather than a declaration of ineligibility.

Elections Board passes judgement:
On Tuesday, Feb. 26, the Elections Board held a hearing in the House Chambers to decide which cases would be dismissed, and which the Board would take action against guilty candidates. Tepper’s ticket was cleared of possible charges of illegal campaigning use of social media, while Amirato’s ticket was reprimanded for not having approved campaign sponsors, but not declared ineligible by the Elections Board.

The Student Court:
On Feb. 26, the Student Court met to hear an additional set of challenges that the Elections Board couldn’t hear since they were a party in many of the cases, as candidates alleged that some aspects of the election were either mishandled or inaccurate, placing the blame on the Elections Board. Despite this, arguments still arose during this initial hearing, about whether the court had any authority over these cases.

Cases heard by the Student Court:

  • Lee vs. Elections Board
    • Lee challenged the Elections Board for allegedly not letting the College of Medicine “vote in a timely manner,” as Lee described earlier, due to having been left off the voter registry for 17 and a half hours. Students were added to vote and emailed about the problem according to Associate Dean of Students Terry Mena. This case was moved to a full hearing on Feb. 28.
  • Amirato vs. Elections Board
    • Amirato challenged the results of the election saying that the new voting system used (see sidebar) may be inaccurate. Given the amount of evidence provided by Amirato, and the seriousness of the allegation, the Court agreed to move this case to a full hearing on Feb. 28.

The Court’s hearings:
On Thursday, Feb. 28, one week after the unofficial results were posted, the Student Court met at 8 p.m. in the evening to hear remaining appeals and cases. All three candidates that had filed challenges, and their running mates, were in attendance. While some appeals were dismissed over the course of the hearing, such as LaTasha Lee’s charge against the Tepper ticket for improper use of social media, many were postponed until after Spring Break. They will then hold a hearing to finally determine the legitimacy of the remaining appeals and of the entire election itself.

Appeals and cases heard by the Student Court:

  • Lee vs. Eindbinder/Tepper/Broudy
    • This appeal was nearly identical to Callahan’s case against the Tepper ticket for the use of social media to influence voting. The appeal was dismissed on the grounds that Lee had technically withdrawn her complaint earlier.
  • Callahan vs. Eindbinder/Tepper/Broudy
    • A continuation of the case that the Elections Board had heard and dismissed on Tuesday, Feb. 26. The case was appealed, but then postponed, with a final decision set to come after Spring Break.
  • Tepper vs. Lee (eligibility contestation)
    • Appeal concerning Lee’s eligibility to run for office, based around credit hours taken. Case was dismissed.
  • Broudy vs. Amirato/Callahan
    • Appeal concerning the use of campaign materials by the Amirato ticket, postponed until after Spring Break.
  • Lee vs. Elections Board
    • Case that was made on Feb. 26 about the availability of voting for students in the College of Medicine. Case was facing dismissal after the Court cleared the Elections Board of any wrongdoing — however, the Court agreed to partly postpone the case until after Spring Break.
  • Amirato vs. Elections Board
    • Case that was made on Feb. 26 about the accuracy of the new IRV voting system, and how the election was carried out by the Elections Board. Case was not heard, being postponed until after Spring Break.

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The new voting system:

The 2013 Student Government elections had a new voting system called Instant Runoff Voting. This system is supposed to simulate runoff elections after the first round of voting and it does this through the use of candidate rankings.

In this system, students rank the candidates from first to last, in terms of who they would prefer to see in office. To win an IRV election, a candidate must achieve a 5 percent majority of voter preference. This means that a candidate receiving over 50 percent of “1” rankings (ranked first by voters) would automatically win, but if this does not occur, runoff elections — elections where the lowest-ranked candidate is removed, and new ballots for the remaining candidates are cast — are simulated with the second place, third place, and so on rankings, depending on how many runoff elections are required.

If no clear winner emerges after all “1” votes are counted, the candidate who received the least “1” votes is removed, and the votes of all the voters who ranked that candidate “1”  are then shifted to the candidate that those voters ranked “2”, in a simulated runoff election. If no clear winner emerges in this runoff, the process is repeated, with the “3” rank being used if a voter’s “2” rank has been eliminated along with their “1” rank.

The Elections Board has high hopes for this new system, but as former Student Government Speaker of the House Alan Pollock said on the Court hearing on Feb. 28, “I want to remind everybody that this is the first time we’ve done an instant-runoff voting system. It is very much expected that we’re probably going to get it wrong the first time, or at least have a couple of hiccups.”