North Texas Daily

Election results to be released after ruling from Court panel

Election results to be released after ruling from Court panel

April 22
22:27 2013

Joshua Friemel / Managing Editor

Results for the Student Government presidential election could become official as early as 7 p.m. today if an appeal to the UNT Senate isn’t filed. Yesterday, the UNT Supreme Court heard communication studies junior Jake Dionne’s appeal and ruled to uphold the results from a runoff election for SGA president and vice president..

Though official results have yet to be released, Dionne and running mate sociology junior Precious Femi-Ogunyemi appealed to the Court that the election board failed to present an election calendar, failed to identify polling sites and that one academic week to campaign wasn’t given to both sets of candidates.

Five Court members heard appeals from Dionne and Advocate General of SGA Kevin Sanders, and testimonies from former election board coordinator Devin Axtman and current Director of Student Affairs Blaine Berend. After nearly an hour of deliberation, the Supreme Court voted 4-1 to uphold the runoff results. About 30 students attended the meeting.

Court member Maciej Kwiecinski was the only member to vote against the ruling. He said the electoral process “failed the student body.”

“In order to maintain the legitimacy of the presidential position for a fair election, I voted in favor of another election.”

Dionne said he was not upset with the ruling.

In his appeal, Dionne said that he either wanted Brown disqualified for campaigning at Willis Library, a place Dionne thought was off-limits for campaigning, or for there to be another election.  He also said Berend “found some loopholes” when Berend allegedly helped Brown get votes in the library.

“I would argue the election board coordinator was actually in contact with Berend about getting the [polling sites] approved and that Berend never went forward with his duties and approved that information,” Dionne said.

He also said that if Brown won the election by hundreds of votes, then Willis Library didn’t influence the election. Brown could not be reached for comment on the ruling.

“But if they won by less than 100 votes, then Willis Library definitely altered the outcome of the election and that is very unfair to Precious and myself,” Dionne said.

Sanders spoke on behalf of SGA and said since the candidates agreed in an email to have the runoff election from April 10 to 12, a day after the results from the initial election were made public, they all agreed to suspend the bylaw stating a need of one academic week to campaign.

He also said gathering evidence from Facebook about Brown getting votes couldn’t be taken seriously with the Court.

Eight percent of the student body voted in the primary election, while an estimated seven percent of the student body voted in the runoff election.

“To say that votes from Willis Library stopped you from winning the election is absurd,” Sanders said. “There’s 92 percent of the student body still out there.”

Axtman, the former election board coordinator, resigned last Monday because he said he feels a miscommunication between him and one of the candidates may have influenced the vote.

“I had told Precious on the first day of the runoff election that she could not go in the library because that’s what I was under the assumption we had,” he said.

Berend said current president Rudy Reynoso, vice president Justin Wood and he agreed last fall that the library would be a polling site, therefore making it illegal to campaign there. He said the information was never presented to the Senate.

Melissa McGuire, advisor to SGA, said that there were inconsistencies with the election because the candidates rushed into deciding when the runoff election would be held.

“The candidates wanted to keep moving forward while utilizing the momentum from the original election,” she said.

McGuire said she doesn’t think the eventual elected candidates will bend the bylaws like the current candidates. She said the “high stress and tense situations” affected their judgment.

“In anything in our lives, we have to take a step back and think about what’s right,” she said. “That’s important in the president and vice president role.”

Dionne said he will not appeal to the Senate, which makes the results of the runoff election official today, Either way, Femi-Ogunyemi said the two ran with “integrity.”

“I think there was a lack of a basic understanding of the elections themselves,” she said. “We ran with integrity. Maybe integrity won or maybe it lost.”

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