How two presidential hopefuls triggered a special election

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How two presidential hopefuls triggered a special election

Jacqueline LaBayne (Left) and Marianne Alex (Right). Alexander Rodriguez | News Editor

Jacqueline LaBayne (Left) and Marianne Alex (Right). Alexander Rodriguez | News Editor

Jacqueline LaBayne (Left) and Marianne Alex (Right). Alexander Rodriguez | News Editor

Jacqueline LaBayne (Left) and Marianne Alex (Right). Alexander Rodriguez | News Editor

Kerri Covington, Editor in Chief

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It started with two Facebook posts and ended in an election — the second in less than two months.

Now, with a special election in full swing, Student Government is scrambling to elect a new president just over a week before the semester ends, all while suffering from tension among SG members. And for the second time in one semester, Marianne Alex and Jacqueline LaBayne find themselves competing for the presidential seat following the February election.

If you haven’t voted yet, the polls are open until midnight tonight on Owl Central.

How It Happened

Those Facebook posts belonged to LaBayne and her Vice President Kyle MacDonald. The two campaigned via the social media platform 10 days before the campaign period, a “major” violation of SG statutes.

Several weeks later, the two were elected president and VP, winning by 800 votes, with Alex coming in second. Only 2,317 out of 28,011 (8.2 percent) students voted for president.

Kerri-Marie Covington
Kyle MacDonald and Jacqueline LaBayne. Photo courtesy of of LaBayne and MacDonald’s GoFundMe page.

Alex then brought those posts to the Student Court, who later disqualified LaBayne and MacDonald from serving. Several weeks later, the Elections Board called for a special election, despite the fact that the court ruled it was unconstitutional.

Alex claimed that she was just doing her job.

“They thought it was all petty and it’s because we lost,” she said. “But in the statutes it says you have to bring up misconduct and anything you see wrong you’re held liable to, so I was just trying to do my job.”

She added that she’s worried violating SG statutes will become a trend if LaBayne and MacDonald are elected.

“…there are rules and there are consequences to those rules, and if they’re going to [violate those rules] just in the campaign process, what are they going to do in office?”

Alex’s Vice President Edward Perez said, “It’s almost saying, ‘OK, you can break the rules, but you can run again.’”

Meanwhile, LaBayne defended her ticket’s decision to campaign via Facebook.

Marianne Alex and Edward Perez. Alexander Rodriguez | News Editor

“I think it’s ridiculous honestly. We got approval from the Elections Board. I would never maliciously go and campaign early. That wasn’t my intent at all,” she said. “I thought I was doing everything right. You know, crossing my T’s, dotting my I’s, but obviously someone screenshotted it and got us disqualified the first time.”

While the Elections Board initially gave the two permission to campaign via Facebook, it later withdrew its approval, saying it made a mistake.

LaBayne doesn’t believe she and MacDonald should’ve been disqualified.

“We didn’t think it would be as big of a controversy as it was. Personally, I don’t think they had any grounds to disqualify us. I mean, getting disqualified over a Facebook post was a shocker,” she said. “I got really emotional in the courtroom because I was just so upset and I get that, in their eyes, they’re doing their job, but it’s supposed to be a learning lab. We don’t get everything right. I’m not saying it was right or wrong but we’re supposed to learn from our past experiences.”

Cutting It Close

The special election takes place during finals week April 24-25, one day after classes end.

Elections supervisor Douglas Speed said that he wasn’t exactly happy with the special election’s timing.

“I wasn’t super stoked for it because I have six classes and with the special election now, the elections are going to be going on during all my finals,” he said. “The day that I now have to do the elections hearing — I have two finals that day.”

Following the special election, an Elections Board hearing will take place April 27 to hear out any complaints against the candidates. If there are any appeals, the Student Court will meet a week later.

This means that the court’s hearing would be held May 4, the last day of the semester. If the hearing does take place, the official election results will be posted after.

If not, the results will be posted following the Elections Board hearing.

Strained Relationships

Some SG members feel as if they’ve been ostracized because of their role in the special election.

Student Court Chief Justice Isaiah Moriarity ruled that the special election is unconstitutional. Now, he says it’s uncomfortable to be around his friends in SG.

“I know that I’ve endured some heavy cost from this. Most of my friends have just fled … I’m constantly on the defensive of where I go to eat, who I’m with, who I can talk to,” he said. “I have classes with most of these people that are on both sides.”

Isaiah Moriarity. Courtesy of Twitter

That uneasiness was only made worse after MacDonald alleged Moriarity has a conflict of interest after a photo appeared of the chief justice meeting with Alex outside of school. Moriarity claimed the two met to discuss one of her classes.

“There has been an ethics complaint made against me by Kyle MacDonald … I do not believe there’s any merit to it,” Moriarity said. “I think that it’s an act, it’s similar to when a criminal gets caught by a cop or whatever and they accuse the cop or they accuse the judge of being biased.”

MacDonald responded, saying, “it is disappointing to see what some Student Government Officials have come to.”

“It’s hard to say there is no merit to my complaints when I have provided actual evidence from his text messages. He stated “Kyle would be wise not to make any more enemies,” MacDonald said via email. “That does not sound like an unbiased judge in search of justice. It sounds like someone with a personal bias threatening another individual.”

Meanwhile, House representative and Alex/Perez supporter Noah Goldberg told the UP that some members of SG believe he egged Kyle MacDonald’s house.

“I did not egg [his] house and it is insulting for anyone to think I would do so. I would never stoop to that level for any reason.”

The UP reached out to MacDonald for comment regarding the egging but has not received a response as of publication time.

A Ripple Effect

The special election isn’t just causing tension among SG members.

It’s also delaying SG’s normal spring operations, at least according to three of SG’s key players: the current student body president, the speaker of the House, and the Student Court chief justice.

President Emily Lawless said that while she supports the special election, it’s postponing preparations for next semester.

“We would have been transitioning and the new President and VP would be hiring and preparing to switch over completely. It is definitely holding Student Government back as a whole!!!” Lawless told the UP via email.

Emily Lawless. Photo courtesy of FAU

Presidential hopeful Alex, who currently serves as speaker of the House, said the special election is “a nightmare for us, for administration, and for Student Government in general.”

She added that the election is preventing the hiring of a new administration.   

“We’re pretty much going to be in a government shutdown if we don’t have a president pretty soon, and it’s pushing whoever’s getting elected weeks behind hiring and getting the ball rolling.”

Student Court Chief Justice Moriarity said the newly appointed governors of the Boca, Davie, and Jupiter campuses are currently appointing their staffs, something the new president and vice president “should be” doing.

He added that while the new governors are moving forward, the office of the future president is at a standstill.

“I think it is important to make that distinction so students don’t feel as though student government has completely failed them,” he said via email.

Moriarity is worried SG’s reputation has suffered as a result.

“This special election has put SG in a perilous circumstance … On the other hand, the reputation and respect we have with other schools is tarnished because we do not have a face of Student Government in a timely manner.”

Statute Overhaul

While the Student Court maintains the special election is unconstitutional, SG members seem to agree that regardless of what happens, the statutes need to be updated.

Alex said the special election falls within a gray area.

“I absolutely think that next year, whoever wins needs to revamp our statutes entirely. I think they’re very vague, I think they’re open to whatever interpretation you kind of want to go to, especially the Elections Board, because … with the new technology we have, it’s such a gray area that whoever interprets it can be like, ‘Oh, well that’s not illegal,’ [or] ‘Oh, that is illegal.’”

SG adviser Donald Van Pelt said the statutes need to be revamped as well.

“I think all students involved would agree that our current Student Government statutes need to be updated and as a result, will work to improving the statutes for the future.”

A Matter of Opinion

Alex believes she should be elected as she’s “always wanted to help people.” She added that she’s good at “taking criticism from students and actually doing what they want.”

“I think our integrity and our character is different from theirs … I think we are for the students, and obviously neither of us are political science [majors],” she said. “I don’t think I’m going to have much of a political career after college, so I think that speaks volumes to why we’re actually doing this.”

Despite this, LaBayne said that she’s confident she and MacDonald will be elected for a second time.

“Ultimately, it should be the students who should pick the president and vice president and the students didn’t pick [runner-up Marianne Alex],” she said. “The first time the students spoke and got their votes out and I think the second time will be the same.”

Kerri Covington is the editor in chief of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @kerri_marie23.